With all of the news about sexual assaults on college campuses over the last few months, I feel compelled to share my own experience, as mild as it was in comparison to some of the stories we hear today. Keep in mind, this wasn’t this year, or even this decade. This was the fall of 1980. I was a long-haired, 88-pound, 5-foot-tall freshman with an attitude, who thought I knew how to take care of myself.
On my first Friday night at college, my sophomore roommate offered to take me with her to a frat party. I eagerly accepted, as this would be the gateway to my new social life. When we arrived, it was packed with fraternity brothers, frat-boy-want-to-be’s and lots of girls. Soon after our arrival, I lost track of my roommate amidst all of the chaos. I was not concerned and just continued to look for her in the basement of the old frat house, weaving my way around small groups of people.
That’s when it happened.
The next thing I knew, I was pinned against one of the basement walls, being pawed and kissed by some young man I had never seen. Horrified, I jabbed my knee into the only place I could think of, and he fell to the ground. I tore off in search of my roommate, quickly finding her talking to one of the fraternity brothers.
Explaining what had happened, we walked back to the scene of the crime, where the assailant was just beginning to stand up. He was immediately ejected from the party. Shortly thereafter, my roommate and I went back to our dorm room, the incident tucked neatly in the back of our heads — still there but not worthy of further discussion.
It was not until the following Monday morning that I realized my assailant was in my chemistry class. As I came in, climbed the stairs and sat down in the back of the auditorium-style classroom, I scanned the people in front of me, and there he was, looking back up at me. Shocked and distraught, I sat there, not knowing what to do.
And so, I did nothing. Ever. In fact, I completed that course, his menacing figure always several rows in front of me. I never left my dorm alone after that. In fact, I never went anywhere alone for the remaining years I was there. And I never shared my experience with campus authorities or my friends. Even today, most of my family and friends know nothing about the incident.
So why share this story now, almost 35 years later?
Because this is not a new problem.
Because not reporting it was wrong.
Because corrective action should be taken in campuses across the country.
Because I don’t want my daughter to have a similar experience when she becomes a college freshman later this year.