What no one tells you about healing after sexual assault, and what actually helped me.

But I know what has helped me: admitting that I wasn’t okay. Admitting that I needed help. And, most importantly, admitting that it wasn’t my fault.

But the one thing I committed to when I began the Title IX process was that I was going to follow through with everything and trust my gut. For me, this involved appealing a mutual no-contact order (NCO) — essentially the school version of a two-way restraining order — that was issued against the Respondent, but also against me, even though the university’s sexual misconduct investigation found the Respondent responsible for the assault not once, but twice. Was I ever going to contact the Respondent? Of course not; I wanted absolutely nothing to do with him, and I made that clear when I requested to not see him or be seen by him during the hearing. He was a stranger to me the night that it happened, and I preferred to keep it that way. But I still didn’t know why the no-contact order had to go both ways; it felt like I was being punished for reporting the assault.

Even though I’ll never get back the girl I used to be, I think I could learn to love the one I’m becoming; she’s definitely better off having fought for the safety and justice she deserves.

Until that decision, I never questioned whether or not they took my case seriously, nor did I ever have reason to doubt that they cared about me and were willing to provide me with any and all available accommodations to make it possible for me to continue my education as normal. But once they upheld the mutual NCO at the conclusion of my case, it was clear the university was just going through the motions of implementing tired policies, without considering the factual evidence or the reason for upholding this sanction against me.

Today, when I think about it, that internal weight that I carry doesn’t feel quite as heavy as it once did. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

Hooray, right? What I’ve had to learn the hard way is that the conclusion of my Title IX case did not bring me the closure I was desperately seeking. It was a finish line that I had been eyeing since the process started. I naively thought if I just made it to the date of the hearing, it would all be over and poof, I’d never think about it again. Legally, the absolute best-case scenario happened for me, even though I had been preparing for the worst. But still I felt no sense of victory. I might have won my safety and peace of mind on campus, and I am so incredibly grateful for that, but I personally did not win. I did not get an overwhelming sense of joy and suddenly start looking at the world through new eyes. In fact, the opposite happened, because at the end of the day, I lost a part of me that I’ll never get back, and I miss her — a lot. Unfortunately, a tangible or quantifiable retribution won’t bring her back, erase the memories, or make what happened to me okay.

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