Welcome to Break the Silence at Vassar.
Check out our About/FAQ page to learn more about the project and our goals of raising awareness about and preventing personal violation and see the answers to some frequently asked questions. Any additional questions you have about the project can be submitted on this page.
If you want to reach out for help or someone to talk to, the Resources page lists organizations both on- and off- campus who can offer you assistance. UPDATE: JYA Resources have been added to the Resources page. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for additional resources, JYA or other.
Additionally, we have a new Get Informed page which offers helpful information regarding some of the language used on this site and elsewhere in conversation about personal violation, as well as suggestions for productive discussion about personal violation.
Thank you for sharing.
TRIGGER WARNING: The stories below contain explicit descriptions of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, relationship abuse, and other forms of personal violation.
On December 28, 2011, I was sexually assaulted. We had been dating for a year and five days.
I was raised with conservative religious values and expectations of abstinence until marriage, and we had done only a little other than kiss (which, admittedly, we did a lot). But suddenly, that night, I was going down on him. I don’t remember how it happened. We were kissing, and then his penis was in my mouth.
I gagged, and suddenly I started sobbing.
Every image of a chaste bride who had waited until her wedding night flooded back to me from Sunday school, and I felt like a used tissue. I couldn’t remember how this had started. I was scared and upset and no one had ever taught me consent because they were too busy telling me how important it would be to my future husband that I save everything for him.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re not doing anything wrong,” he said.
I curled up and cried.
“You don’t like it,” he whined.
I tried to explain to him that I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready.
I kept crying. He was silent.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m really sorry. I can’t do it.”
“It’s fine.” He got up to go to the bathroom.
I remembered the first time he had removed my bra, maybe a month before. We were shirtless, and he reached around to my back and said jokingly, “Hmm, what’s this? Some kind of latch?” He was fingering the hook on my bra. I didn’t say anything. “You can stop me at any point,” he said. But he had already unhooked it. What was the point? I buried my head in the pillow.
Two nights after December 28, he asked if I wanted to try again. I said I just needed some time.
One night later, he asked a second time. “Please,” he said. So I did.
When Christmas break was over, we parted ways; he returned to his freshman year in college, I to my senior year in high school. I had recurring dreams where we were back in the bed where it had all happened.
One of my best friends asked me about our relationship. “How far have you gotten?” she asked.
“Just kissing,” I said. I felt too much shame to tell her.
Two weeks later, he called me. We broke up. He said we were on “different trajectories.” I told him we had never talked about what happened over Christmas break. “You told me you were okay with everything that happened,” he said, accusingly. I wasn’t. I didn’t say anything more about it. I could almost hear him thinking, “She’s going to pull the rape card to guilt me out of dumping her.”
I was fucked up. I had trouble sleeping for weeks, and nightmares for months. I attributed the hard time I was having to a hard break-up. I never considered that I had been sexually assaulted, and I was too ashamed to tell anyone about any of the feelings I was having. I had trusted him and loved him; surely sexual assault didn’t happen between people who were in love, who had dated for a year.
The first time I ever mentioned the incident was in July, six months later. I described to my friend how embarrassed I was that I had broken down. Why couldn’t I have just given him a blow job without becoming hysterical? I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have, but I did.
Only now, in May 2013, am I standing against it for what it was: sexual assault. There was no informed consent. I was not okay for a long time. I largely avoided romantic and sexual interactions with others for the better part of a year. I struggled to come into a queer identity.
I am done being silent. I am done pretending what he did was okay.
Sexual assault happens here. I stand against it.
I’ve felt violated twice in my life. Once it was a rational reaction, and once it wasn’t.
I think I was eight. I was at a summer day camp, and we were at a swimming pool. My mom was paranoid about me getting skin cancer, so she had me wear bathing suits that covered my arms and legs and zipped down the front. Some of the counselors were giving kids piggy back rides in the pool, and I felt left out. Then a woman offered to give me a piggy back ride. I thought she was a counselor; I couldn’t keep all the grown-ups straight. I said yes. Once she’d carried me to a deeper part of the swimming pool, she took me off her back, unzipped my bathing suit, and felt around my genitals. Then she said “Oh, did your bathing suit come undone?” and acted as if nothing had happened. I had no idea what was going on or how to react, so I just zipped my suit back up and let her carry me back to the edge of the pool. I went into the bathroom and started sobbing, even though I didn’t understand why. That night, I told my parents what had happened. Naturally, they were horrified. They called the camp counselors, and the next day one of them pulled me aside and talked to me. I remember her showing me a picture of the woman who molested me and asking me if it was her. Afterwards, I didn’t give it much thought. It wasn’t until years later that I remembered what had happened and recognized it for what it was. Now I wish I knew what happened to that woman. The counselors knew who she was, so did anyone press charges? I never was taken to court to testify. What did my parents do? I’m afraid to ask them; I’m sure reminding them of what happened will just upset them. How would I even start that conversation? “Hey Mom, remember that woman who molested me when I was eight? What happened to her?” I’m just worried that she got away with it.
I was nineteen. I’d been having pain in my vulva, and inserting tampons was very painful. Something had to be wrong, so I went to my mom’s gynecologist. I’d never gotten a gynecological exam before, but I’d been to his office before to get birth control. I was uncomfortable with the idea of a man looking at my vulva, but I figured it’d be alright because my mom trusted him. At first it was okay; he stuck some metal implement in my vagina and said nothing seemed wrong with it. Then he put lube on his gloved finger and put it up my vagina. It was painful, like putting in tampons had been, so I told him to stop. He did right away and ended the exam. Then he prescribed an ointment for me and told me he’d test the urine sample I’d given earlier to see if I had a UTI. When my mom and I got back into the car, I asked her to drive. My vagina still hurt. As we pulled out of the parking lot I started crying silently. I tried to hide the tears from my mom, but she started to talk to me and I couldn’t keep the sound of crying out of my voice. Once I admitted that I felt violated I started sobbing. I knew I was being irrational; it was a medical exam. That knowledge didn’t make the feeling of violation any less real.
Now I know that going to a male gynecologist is triggering for me, so I’ll find a female gynecologist next time I need one. I think I’d have been alright with the whole experience if it had been a woman. Then again, that doesn’t even make sense; I’ve never been sexually violated by a man. I’ve only ever been violated by a woman.
When I was 15, I started seeing this guy. He was 18, hot as hell, and seemed really sweet. Things went great for the first few months, but then summer came. On a really drunk night, I lost my virginity to him. I spent the whole next day crying because I’d wanted it to be special, with someone I loved. I told him this and he rolled his eyes and told me to shut my mouth. This was the first time I saw a nasty side to him. Eventually, I became a little scared of him. He would ask me to come over every night for sex, and of I said no he would scream at me and call me terrible names. It was rape, though. I would go to his house and ask to just hang out, and he would throw me to the floor an punch me until I gave up. Then he would hold me down and rape me. Usually, as he was raping me he was choking me with his free hand. This went on for months and I never told anyone. I was so ashamed of my body. I would wake up the next morning with bruises covering my body, and I would sit in the shower and just cry and cry. Finally, I told my parents about it and my dad told him he was no longer allowed to have any contact with me. It was such a relief, but now I have to live with PTSD as a result of it all. If you’re going through this, please tell someone. By the way, I’m 16 now (: and I hvent dated anyone since
My Christmas gift in the newspaper:
“Charged with felony rape, felony distribution of indecent material and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.”
And my first reaction is, thank God
Thank the forces that be, thank the universe, thank karma, thank fate -
I can finally breathe. One big breath, clear my lungs.
And then I think:
What about my English teacher,
Who’d read my journals every day of that year, every single one about the horrible things he’d done;
What about her, who’d never approached me?
What about my coach,
Who when I had finally worked up the nerve to hint at what had happened, had said that was just the way boys were;
What about her, who’d brushed me off?
What about my mother,
Who’d let him pick me up at the front door every day for weeks, and saw me come home crying every night;
What about her, who didn’t think?
And I know I’m grown up now, no longer his type.
But I knew the girl after me, and the girl after her
I’d watched them drop like flies, prey
At our schools, at our youth centers, at our family parties.
It wasn’t God or karma or fate, it was people.
Maybe 12 or 14 girls later someone had the nerve to say something
And someone else had the nerve to listen.
One big breath, clear my lungs.
Don’t look back.
From the sinners, from the filth
From nightmar’d days alone
Bearing humaneness and sanity on my back
As the woman who shouts out, “we are all doomed”
And is taken for a fool.
God will smite them. God will smite them and leave me.
Don’t look back.
From the cries, from the struggling fists
From nightmar’d days alone
Holding that thing, that memory inside
As the girl who only whispers, “it was not okay”
Too afraid to be taken for a fool.
The world will give him what he deserves. The world will give him what he deserves and leave me.
A thousand times I’ve laid the thought aside
To walk away and start anew -
And still I look back, and turn to salt.
Am I guilty, or is the universe just unnaturally cruel, to freeze me staring at the one thing I’d hoped to leave behind?
I had the perfect first relationship – loving, caring, supportive. We were best friends, we lost our virginities with one another, and when it came time to graduate from high school, we weren’t done yet. We chose to stay together in an open relationship, long distance. We did this for a year, no problem. I don’t know if I will ever love anyone the way I loved him. I was safe.
At the end of my freshman year, realizing that my bisexuality was for real and I had better start figuring out what THAT was all about (or else break my beloved’s heart), I talked to him about my fears and my confusion, my love for him. He recommended trying to meet someone and try it on a little, naturally keeping him informed about everything. I agreed.
That night, an older friend invited me to hang out with her and some of her buddies. Since they were cool folks and her friend was visiting, who she “thought I might like,” I agreed. While there, I got drunk for the first time. I met the friend. She gave me more drinks. We talked. She told me she was a rape victim, and was dealing with how it had affected her sexuality, might have made me “more lesbian.” I listened, was compassionate, sympathized, connected. This woman was gentle, open, sensitive, and clearly interested in me…she kept touching my hands, my hair – her fingers knowing what my body wanted, being a woman too! Refilling my rum and coke. Did her hand slip? I don’t know.
We go down to the Villard Room for the main event. I remember slipping away from my friends, dancing alone, wanting to breathe away from the intense flirtation. I dance with someone else – we get closer together. I am happy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there she is again, taking my hands, leading me away. I stumble. I try to break away, go back to the dance floor, but she leads me on. Finally, when we’re away from the crowds and I can hear, I ask her what’s going on. She tells me a friend needs my help. I learn later that this is a lie.
She takes me back to our mutual friend’s room. Along the way, she shoves me into alcoves, hands and mouth moving, biting. I can’t move my mouth. When we get back to the room, no one is there. I begin to come to myself, look in the mirror, see blood. She has ripped open part of my neck, and I can see tendon.
I slur that I need to use the bathroom. She accompanies me, strips me out of damp bloody clothes, and puts me in the shower, climbs in after me. She washes my neck clean, with soap. I cry – she tells me I am beautiful, asks me if I’m ok, tells me she has never felt like this about anyone before. She pushes me down to my knees. I stand up – through the haze in my brain, I realize what has happened. I don’t panic – I tell her, calmly, that I have a test in the morning and need to get to bed, thanks for the fun. She pouts, clings, asks me to stay the night. All I want is to get away. It’s 4 in the morning. Finally, I escape.
I tell my boyfriend that I “didn’t really connect with the girl I slept with.” However, two months later, I break up with him. Only later do I come to realize that in part, I blamed him for what happened to me.
It’s bad enough that it happened, but the thing that truly breaks my heart is this – now, I don’t know if I will EVER get to figure out my bisexuality. As a bisexual, you lose your virginity twice, once with men and once with women. She was my first.