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.
I looked at the trigger warning and thought nothing of it. But as I read her foggy description and the story zoomed in and out of her consciousness, I was reminded. I was reminded of the dream-like state I was in, of the half-asleep bursts of emotions I had as my awareness of what was happening to me flicked on and off. The interaction she described was just too similar for me to not be upset. The story didn’t hurl me into depression because it triggered my own pain. Depression set on because of how formulaic this story was of every encounter I’ve heard of on this campus. How many times does this has to happen in the exact same way before we realize rape is rape. How many times until the school gets it right? How many times until girls can experiment with substances in a safe space, in the same way that boys can?
I no longer go to Vassar, but I really feel like this is a good place for me to go right now. When I was younger, I don’t even remember how old, maybe 7 or 8, one of my non-blood uncles touched me at my cousin’s birthday party. Under the guise of showing me his camera, he sat me on his lap and moved closer and closer to the inside of my pants. I felt uncomfortable and I had no idea why. I didn’t end up telling anyone until my sophomore year of high school, when it all poured out during a suicidal episode. Now, 4 years later, my mom desperately wants me to confront the man that did this to me. But I really don’t know what I want to do.
I felt so uncomfortable. He didn’t care about me. I was a freshman at the Mug, and we went back to his TA. I felt so used, just a sex toy for him. He was so aggressive, and I felt overpowered and too weak to say anything. I let him have sex with me so it would be over–he fucked me from behind so at least I didn’t have to see his face. I was too drunk to understand how dehumanized I felt until the next day. Still, I feel like I can’t let myself admit how devastated I was, or even acknowledge that it was anything more than a bad hookup.
it feels like a part of me is still stuck in that room, even though it has now been two years. it still feels like you are here — almost as though i can feel you all over me, ready to hurt me again. the littlest things remind me of you, and i am coping with the ways i harmed myself and ruined my physical health.
even though most of your friends (and you) have graduated, there are plenty more here on campus who will never believe me or coddle me into making me feel even more broken than i already do.
one day I’ll be brave enough to speak up.
I was a formal witness in a sexual assault case at Vassar. The survivor was too drunk to function and her perpetrator slept with her anyway. The perpetrator also sexually assaulted other women I knew. I knew so clearly that this person was a rapist from my own work in survivor advocacy, but it wasn’t until I was a formal witness that I remembered the same exact thing had happened to me in high school– something I had never thought of as rape. It’s strange to have that realization now. It’s not as if the memories were repressed. I feel confused because I wonder if I should be feeling a tremendous amount of pain, or disgust for my rapist.
We were at a party, and he had me on his lap. He put me there, and I didn’t mind. I was playing a drinking game, and I got incredibly drunk, and I browned out. I have some memories of going down on him in a bedroom, but that’s it. I know we didn’t have sex, but I don’t know what else happened. Then he left me there until I woke up, feeling horrible. I curled up on an arm chair downstairs while he and his friends went to white castle. I threw up a few times and in the morning he laughed at how sick I was.
That same night, a boy who would later be my boyfriend was there. He had a crush on me, and a few months into our relationship, he confronted me. He was so angry that I had hooked up with this other guy instead of him. “Why not me?” he asked. “He was getting you so drunk. I was watching it. He has done that before.” He said it with such an accusatory tone, and I felt scared of losing our relationship so I apologized over and over. Today I want to say scream at him. Later in our relationship when we were trying to have sex, I was having a lot of trouble because of the pain and tightness. He grew frustrated and told me I have a low tolerance for pain.
It is profoundly sad that these experiences were some of my first in terms of exploring my sexuality.
You ruined me. On that November night in 2011, you ruined me. To this day I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe, I’ve tried taking my life, because you forced me to have sex with you. I will never be the same, I will never be ok. I will cry every time I have sex because all I can feel is fear. I am paralyzed in sadness and hate. You are the reason I had to leave college, you are the reason my life is frayed and my soul is frail. You ruined me.
I was raped just three months before I arrived at Vassar to begin my freshman year. My ex-boyfriend was emotionally abusive of me for months, manipulating, coercing, and lying to me. When I was 18 I lost my virginity to him. I was naive and tried to tell myself that all my sexual experiences were empowering, but the reality was he did things when I told him not to, and he pressured me for sex even when I was crying. Once he poured me a strong drink when I didn’t want to have sex and then told me afterward that he didn’t take advantage of me and I shouldn’t tell people that he did. In reality I felt for a long time as if it were impossible for me to say no, so in a way my rape wasn’t confined to one night– it was a steady and dehumanizing process of taking away my power. There are no words to describe how ashamed I am that I didn’t say no to him throughout those months.
Then there was the night when it happened. The small part of me that was still my independent self had the strength to yell at him and push him away from me. What followed I will remember for the rest of my life. He sat in silence on the bed with his head bowed. Then he started crying and said brokenly, “For a moment there, I felt like I was raping you.” He continued tearfully, “I don’t want to be that guy… I’m sorry.. I’m sorry.” I am ashamed that I told him I forgave him.
At the time I was so emotionally disoriented and had lost so much power that I didn’t know what was sexual assault and what was not, what was forgivable and what was not, what was objectifying and dehumanizing and what was not. The reality was, though, that the incident and the entire relationship almost literally drove me crazy. I punched my rapist in the face five times outside our high school graduation rehearsal. And I sank into such a deep depression that I thought about suicide almost every day. Finally, I came forward to get help. I told my mom I was thinking about suicide. I told her the entirety of what had happened. Then (although my parents were opposed to antidepressants originally) I got on Zoloft. Starting Zoloft, my life began to change. I began practicing meditation and reading Buddhist texts, trying to find a space of calm. Healing was a very gradual and very difficult process. At first Zoloft seemed numbing but gradually I found that I was still myself, and it was life-saving.
When I got to Vassar my healing suddenly accelerated dramatically. I am among kind and intelligent people in a place that feels wonderfully safe to me. I never have to see my abuser. I could begin again as an undamaged person. I’m now in the best and most loving relationship of my life, which has done more for my healing than anything. My boyfriend treats me with love and respect. I am happier now than I can ever remember being in my life. If that seems too good to be true, that’s how it felt when I found him.
I’m sharing my story because I want anyone who has been where I was to know that there is reason to be hopeful, and space and time to reclaim yourself. Anyone who has been clinically depressed understands that the toxic center of the illness is hopelessness– the belief that things can’t and won’t improve. My life has proved that belief wrong and your life will as well.