No excuses for rape and violence sign

A student from Rutgers University shares her story of sexual assault

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site.

A warrior named Rebecca Emont recently spoke at Take Back the Night about her experience being sexually assaulted at Rutgers University. She decided to share her experience with me and the Feministing community as a part of her mission to inform, educate, and most of all, empower.

KB: What is your story?

RE: In February 2014, my ex-boyfriend raped me. I had said “no” several times, however my lack of consent did not matter to him. I was shocked into silence, trying to pretend I was anywhere else, but there.

Later, we discussed what happened and it felt like maybe something had just gone wrong. He was so apologetic. I was lonely. I was scared. I wanted to feel loved. I thought that what had happened was not rape after all, so I continued to have sex with him. But every time we had sex, I became physically ill, repulsed by my own body.

I had thought deeply about it and decided to text him. I told him I was angry and afraid because of what he had done to me. He responded saying “I raped you. I just destroyed you.” He said that word-for-word, and later on in those same messages, he said that he had raped me out of spite.

KB: How did Rutgers respond?

RE: After I submitted the text messages and requested expulsion for the man who raped me, the head of Student Conduct, Joe DiMichele, suspended him for three semesters.

I could not believe that a full confession was not enough for a rapist to be expelled. I asked myself what would I need for expulsion? Would he have had to rape me in broad daylight with a crowd around? Would my body have to be covered in bruises?

Despite the fact that the boy who raped me confessed to the head of student conduct, he still decided to appeal, arguing that the sanctions were disproportionally severe. The scariest part was that he no longer felt guilt. Or at least he did not feel enough guilt to accept the pathetic excuse for a sanction that Rutgers had dished out.

When asked what I thought an appropriate sanction was, I told administrators that anything less than expulsion would be a disservice to me, and to the student body. Since I was told by Middlesex County Special Victims Unit that I had no case, I expected Rutgers to at least take reasonable action on my behalf.

The final decision of whether to modify or uphold the sanctions became Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Felicia McGinty’s decision. She wrote in the official letter that a three-semester suspension was appropriate for what he had done to me. Three semesters was appropriate.

KB: What are your thoughts on their decision?

RE: Rutgers had an opportunity to take action and to be a leader in addressing sexual assault on campuses, but they made a poor, harmful decision. They will now endanger all other students on campus by allowing this individual back. They have sent a clear and dangerous message: You can rape and you will get away with it.

If Rutgers is making the irresponsible decision to allow him back, they should at least try to rehabilitate him as best as they can. Perhaps he should be briefed and forced to discuss that we live in a rape culture and that he raped me partly because of the negative internal attitudes regarding women, which was reinforced by a sub-par punishment doled out by administrators.

KB: What do you want people to know?

RE: I want survivors to know that they are not alone. There are resources to be utilized if you think your Title IX rights have been violated.

At Rutgers specifically there is the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. Counseling there is free and the women who work there are deeply empathetic and intelligent. It is rare to find women who are as selfless as those women.

I would encourage survivors to make choices that are appropriate for them. You are not alone and you are brave no matter what you do. You are brave for simply existing. In addition, do not blame yourselves. You are not at fault no matter what you were wearing, where you were, whether you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or whether you knew your attacker (which most of the time you do). It was not your fault, and you are brave.

I would encourage women to support each other. We are here to help each other and to empower each other. I would encourage men to be allies as well. Also, I would like to remind people that the LGBTQ community is also deeply affected by this issue.

I encourage everyone to continue to speak out against sexual violence in whatever way they know how.

Header image credit: Markus Schreiber

Kaila Boulware is a senior and Public Health Major at Rutgers University.

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