June is Guest Blogger Month here at FeministaJones.Com . I solicited a few bloggers, writers, poets, etc to contribute posts lending their perspectives and experiences on feminism, race, mental health, sexuality, relationships, liberation, sex, and everything this blog is about. I hope you appreciate their contributions as much as I have. If you’re interested in being featured, please submit your pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org
TW: sexual assault, transphobic violence, stalking
Editor’s Note: A young trans woman asked me to give her space to share her story. Sometimes, just being heard helps ease the burden of bearing these experiences alone and in silence.
Rape. Stalking. Threats of violence.
These were not what I had in mind when I went to University. I knew that they happened on college campuses all the time and I knew that as a woman, as a transsexual, I do have the risk of experiencing violence during my college career. I did not know that all I had to do was leave my dorm to experience it.
I’d forgotten that I should expect violence. My punishment for this trespass was rape, stalking, and threats of violence from several men on campus. The details of my rape, although important, are irrelevant to this story. I won’t bore you with the details and circumstances.
Raped by a man who used his sinister charm and disarming personality, stalked by a man who lied to find me, and being threatened with violence in the middle of University’s busiest walkway with nobody in sight to stop him; all of this is enough to break a person down but the finishing blow comes with the double betrayal: institutional betrayal and abandonment.
For the rape, I’d been punished for the consumption of alcohol (I was 21, legal drinking age). During the questioning, the school official told me that only questions related to the drinking would be asked and that questions regarding the guest would not be. This was a lie, I was forced under threat of punishment to divulge the details of my rape. From here, everyone had been told. Most frighteningly, students had been told of my rape. In multiple victim-blaming opinion pieces and editorials in the University student newspaper, The News, appeared my location and details of my rape that were not supposed to have been public knowledge.
Image: Devon Buchannan via Flickr
The only information that is required to be published is that a rape happened, because of laws regarding campus safety. Details of my case that do not appear in campus crime logs were given to student writers, however. I tried to allow the event to pass, but I couldn’t stand the pressure and had a mental breakdown that included a plan to throw myself in front of a subway train. Even after an attempt to stop further stories from coming out that included details, yet another story came out after I’d been released from the hospital!
From the start, the rape investigation had been botched. Nobody took my rapist’s name down and guest logs from that day vanished. Further, nobody bothered to ask why he was in a rush to leave. The worst of all, nobody took any of the physical evidence he’d left on me. If I’d chosen to press charges at that very moment, there wouldn’t have been a case against him because they let the evidence walk away or disappear. When I’d chosen to press charges, the University Police Department cop on my case never even returned my phone call.
Even though I couldn’t get justice – or even my rapist’s name – I tried getting support from on-campus resources. Their biggest resource and the secondary jewel in the school’s student life crown, the Wellness Resource Center, denied helping me. Their reason? Officially, because rape was “outside of their jurisdiction”. Unofficially, according to an administrator in the school’s Office of University Housing and Residential Life, because I am a transsexual and helping me would be the same as helping a male. It should be noted that their peer counselors and professional staff pride themselves on strides made to support male and “LGBT” survivors. I quickly discovered that what they would say they were capable of and what they were willing to do were two separate things.
The University’s own sexual assault policies never followed through for me, no matter how much I asked:
“Regardless of whether a victim elects to pursue a criminal complaint, the university will assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. To the extent of the victim’s cooperation and consent, university offices, including Campus Safety Services, Counseling Services, the Wellness Resource Center, and the special services manager at Campus Safety Services will work cooperatively to ensure that the complainant’s health, physical safety, and academic status are protected, pending the outcome of a formal university investigation of the complaint. For example, if reasonably available, a complainant may be offered changes to academic or living situations in addition to counseling, health services and assistance in notifying appropriate local law enforcement.”
The heartbreak I felt when my university wouldn’t help me, wouldn’t follow through with their legal and moral responsibilities, was still nothing in comparison to the fear I lived in because of the stalker that I had. My stalker first met me outside of my building, and continued to harass me whenever he’d see me. I kept going to the Wellness Resource Center and 9 times out of 10, could never reach a professional staff member. On the one time I managed to, I was given the “rape is out of our jurisdiction” line and told to go to Campus Safety and Security for help with my stalker. CSS refused to help me, stating that I should “find my own stalker” or “have a friend find out about him”.
The third incident which sealed my fear of being on campus into place was when a student tried to attack me and threatened my life and safety on the most used walkway on main campus and nobody helped me. I’d been walking home from the store when he got in my face, calling me a “f*ggot” and other anti-gay and anti-trans slurs, telling me he’d crack my skull. There were no security guards in that area and when I’d called UPD, they laughed at me and hung up. When an incident such as that happens on campus, we’re explicitly told not to call 911 and to call their police. Had I not ran from that situation, anything could have happened to me that night and nobody would have done a thing. The University prides itself on being a University that values diversity, but that’s not the reality. They turn a blind eye to students who menace women and LGBT individuals.
I could never walk around campus without looking over my shoulder at any time of day again. I developed crippling C-PTSD that left me having panic attacks any time a male would come near me. Even when I was with my best friend, I never stopped scanning the room, just in case my stalker might appear. And, like clockwork, he did appear. He harassed me in the middle of a school office and all I could do was sit and shake like a little girl afraid of the dark. I lived, and to an extent, continue to live my life in fear even when I’m away from campus. What was supposed to be one of many achievements was seared into my memory and my body as scar.
Princess is a 22 year old trans woman of color nerd, writer, and activist. Her work focuses on trans survivors of sexual violence