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 want to write down this story in order to help me move on. Ever since it happened I keep going back and thinking about what happened and how I could have stopped it from happening. It was the worst experience of my life, and I want to stop thinking about it. Hopefully after putting everything out there I can move on and never look back again. What happened to me is disgusting and wrong. I want to share my story so that maybe others can learn from my mistakes: specifically learn how to say no and learn how to stand up for yourself. I had plenty of chances to say no, to completely prevent this whole situation from happening. But I let it happen. I made the wrong decisions. I didn’t stand up for myself.
I want to first start off by saying that the title may be deceiving to what actually happened. The truth is I don’t know if what happened to me would be considered rape or not. I do know that I wish it never happened. I do know that what I felt that day was extreme discomfort and I know I didn’t stand up for myself. Only I know how I felt that day, only I can be the one to determine if I was raped or not. But I couldn’t tell you. I just know that it was not what I wanted.
Here’s the story of what happened to me. You can be the judge of what ever you think happened, just remember that you were not there. As vividly as I am able to describe in words what happened, at the end of the day you were not there and you did not experience this. I did.
Since this happened, I tried to forget the whole experience. Like, I really tried. So I may be missing a few things or minor details.
Basically this was my first and last tinder experience (rather, nightmare). I’ve had Tinder for a couple years now, but never actually used it to meet up with people. I’d go on occasionally to see if I’d match with anyone I knew in person. I was curious to know if the people around me at school would be interested in me. It helped boost my self-esteem. It was addicting. After matching with people I wouldn’t really ever do anything about it. Just move on to the next match.
Then I saw a guy who looked almost identical to Adam Driver, and I had to tell him. I matched with him solely to tell him this. He told me that nobody has ever compared him to Adam based on pictures of him alone. He continued the conversation so easily, and I kept talking to him. I was intrigued. My awkwardness usually ends the conversation after the common:
hey whats up?
But with him it was different, and I loved that I could talk to him so easily. I continued talking to him for a few days. Then he asked me if I wanted to meet up with him— for donuts of all things? My old self would have made up some excuse to say I couldn’t, but recently I’ve been trying to come out of my comfort zone and do things that I normally wouldn’t have. I recently bought a shirt that says “If you never try you’ll never know” which are basically my new words to live by. So I told him why not.
He lives in the Bronx, which is about an hour train ride to where I live. Right before he got here I completely freaked out. I didn’t want to meet up with him anymore, but it was too late. He had already gotten on the hour long train ride just to see me, so I didn’t want to be rude and bail on him. I could at least hang out with him for a little bit, I thought to myself. I don’t need to see him again after this if I don’t want to.
Before he came I already assumed that after we hung out he’d probably want to go back to my dorm, since it was already pretty late at night. Before he came I promised myself that I wouldn’t let him come back to my dorm afterwards— I’d just make him go home and say maybe another time. (I broke that promise).
As I’m walking up to him I quickly realize that he looks nothing like he did in the AD picture. He was not how I pictured him at all. Typical online dating misconception. During the first five minutes of talking to him, I wanted to leave. I was super turned off and definitely not interested. But, remember he just rode an hour to hang out with me. The least I could do was give him a chance.
So when I asked what he wanted to do, I found out he was serious about the donut thing. At 9 o’clock at night he wanted to find a donut place to eat. After we followed his GPS to what he thought was a cool place to get donuts… we ended up at a Dunkin’ Donuts. So after his plan failed I suggested we go to Shake Shack and get shakes: one of my all time favorite things in the world. His response? No. So then he said we should go to an ice cream place in Chinatown instead. Already annoyed, I agreed.
The place ended up being pretty cool, being there with him was not. He was extremely embarrassing to be around. Sometimes purposely, sometimes not. Just everything about him was starting to annoy me, but I kept my cool trying to be as nice to him as possible. We talked about different things but soon realized we really didn’t have much in common. One of the things we talked about was shows we were watching on Netflix. He told me I should watch Bobs Burgers, which led him to say “we should go back to your dorm and watch a few episodes”. I was hesitant at first and tried to think of any excuse to not let him come back to my dorm with me. After awhile I agreed and said as long as that’s all you want to do let’s go watch Bobs Burgers.
Walking back to my dorm, it was in the back of my head that he probably didn’t want to just watch BB. I still kept trying to think of an excuse other than “I don’t want you to come back to my dorm with me”, but I couldn’t. Thinking back now, I’m realizing that that would have been a perfectly good excuse. I don’t need to give a specific reason. If I don’t want you to come back to my dorm with me, I don’t have to let you. Why did I think he needed a real reason? Like mine wasn’t good enough? It was the truth. But I didn’t want to be rude. And I don’t allow myself to say no even when I should.
Once we get back to my dorm I immediately turn on BB. He laid down in my bed and I sat at the opposite end as far away from him as I could. I tried to make it clear that all I wanted to do was watch the show, like he suggested, without having to actually say outloud “I don’t want to hook up with you”. Once again, I don’t know how to stand up for myself and have a voice of my own. Go me. I did this to myself.
During one of the BB episodes the mom and dad start making out and the dad was slobbering all over the mom. He made a comment about this saying that’s so me. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. After about three episodes in, he finally looks at me and says “wanna make out?” I hesitated for awhile because I wanted to say no. But I didn’t. I didn’t want it to be awkward and I didn’t want to seem rude. So I thought to myself, I’ll just make out with him and that’s all that needs to happen. I don’t need to do anything more than that. So we made out. And then I realized the comment he made about BB earlier was completely serious. So much of his saliva was going into my mouth. It was completely disgusting. I even gagged at one point. Thinking back to it still makes me gag that’s how gross it was. I pulled back after gagging and he pulled me closer. He wouldn’t let me go.
Things quickly escalated. Without thinking I started to just let it happen. I looked at the clock and started to count down the time to when he had to be signed out of my dorm by (12 pm) and we had about half an hour left. I figured I could try to drag this out without actually having sex with him and then say he had to leave at 12 so that I could sign him out in time. (The next time the desk was open for me to sign him out was at 9am the next morning). There was my excuse.
At this point he started going down on me. He was really into being as rough as possible with me, something I am not into at all. He’d pull my hair back hard, scratch all down my back, bite me all over, pinch my inner thighs, spank me so hard it left bruises, gave me giant hickeys all over my neck that still hurt the next few days. At one point he started choking me but I pulled his hand off my throat as quickly as he put his hand on it. I told him I really wasn’t into it but he kept doing all of these things. Then he asked me to blow him and I said no. This upset him to the point where he started yelling at me. He said he just spent the last 15 minutes going down on me, the least I could do was blow him. He even grabbed the back of my head like he was going to pull it down towards him. But I backed away and started getting dressed. This is the part where I thought I was finally starting to stand up for myself. I told him that I didn’t want to have sex. He got angry. Angry to the point where we got into a full on argument. I barely even know this guy and I’m ARGUING with him because I don’t want to have sex with him, but I “led him on”. This is crazy to me. He was so mad that I didn’t want to have sex with him “anymore” when I didn’t want to from the beginning. I tried to calm him down by telling him that I just don’t want to have sex with him because I just met him that night. I told him that I wanted to stop hooking up with other people after I first meet them, without even getting to know him (somewhat true). He was still upset and said he didn’t understand. I tried to make him feel better about himself (Why should I have to do this?).
At this point it was past 12 and the next time I could sign him out was at 9am the next morning. He said he could either sleep over or go home and come back to get his ID another day. He said it was up to me. I said I didn’t mind, whatever he wanted to do. Since it was pretty late, I understood that he didn’t want to have to ride the train all the way back to his place when he could just pass out here and go back in the morning. It seemed like a better idea to me too, because then I could just sign him out in the morning without having to worry about him coming back another day to get his ID. I said it was fine with me if he slept over if that’s what he wanted and he said it was.
After I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in having sex with him, we just went back to hanging out like we were before. He told me he understood what I meant when I said I wanted to stop hooking up with random people without really getting to know them first. He said he was okay with that.
Eventually we went to sleep, which was hard because every position I put myself in he would wrap as much of his body around me as he possibly could. I kept waking up in the middle of the night multiple times to switch positions and get more comfortable. One of these times that I switched positions I looked at him to see if he was awake too, and he was. After he saw me looking at him, he suddenly grabbed my face and we started making out. And then I just let it happen. I was too tired to argue. I was too exhausted to say no. I didn’t stand up for myself like I should have. I just let it happen. Was it really rape? I didn’t give consent. But I didn’t say no.
This is not something that I ever wanted to have to write or something that I ever wanted you to have to read. I know how much you love and care about me and how helpless and hurt this letter might make you feel, but I wanted you to know so that you can better understand why I might do the things that I do.
I am a survivor. I’ve endured pain, sorrow, heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, despair, frustration, shame, fear, guilt, envy, and doubt and have come out strong and resilient, even if I don’t always see myself as such. There’s been times when I’ve wanted to pity myself, to see myself as a victim of my situation, but realized that feeling weak doesn’t make anything better. You’ve taught me that. You taught me how to stand up for myself, to use my voice to do good. You’ve taught me the importance of hard work–that there is no magical pill. I have to work to make myself better, and I’ve tried to take that to heart. I know that you have a lot of worldly experience that I don’t always want to listen to, but know that I should. You’re right lots of the time, but there’s one thing that I don’t want you to be right about.
This wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t my fault. There was absolutely nothing that you could have done to protect me. What happened, happened. As much as I want it to be some horrible nightmare, it’s my reality. A reality that I have to live with for the rest of my life. I need you to be strong, because I’m trying my best to be strong and look to you for my strength.
I was raped.
I was sexually violated by a stranger whose name I don’t even know. And he was my first. It wasn’t violent and I’m not worried about my safety. It was random. I was drunk. And, for right now, that’s all that I can share.
I didn’t understand that I was raped until several days after. I believed my rape was something that girls understood as a “coming of age” experience. What I understood rape to be was a strange man lurking behind the bushes leaping and forcing himself on some unsuspecting girl. THAT was rape. That was wrong. But me? I couldn’t have been raped. I’m not that girl–I’m careful and successful. I come from a good family. There has to be some other reason why I’m feeling so horrible…
But I was “that girl”. I felt so ashamed. I blamed myself for putting myself in a compromised situation. I was scared of what I was capable of doing and what was capable of being done to me.
Even though I am “that girl,” I’m so much more. I’m more than my cuts and bruises. And I hope that you can see me in that way, because that’s what I need from you. I am still the girl who you cradled in your arms, whose hands you held as you crossed the street, whose eyes you looked into and saw a version of yourself. And I need to still be that girl.
I’m remembering what it’s like not to hate myself and what happened to me, but it’s going to take time and lots of love from those around me, like you.
I’m still me, a little bit broken, but still me.
This is an accounting of one night in my life, told from the perspective of my subconscious mind.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE
I tried to warn her not to walk away from public view with a
guy she just met; sometimes I don’t know why I bother, because she never listens to me. We were at the fourth of July festival, which was held every year in the small town where we lived. People were running, dancing, screaming, and talking all around us, and I knew it would be much safer to stay put.
I don’t know how exactly she met him, because I wasn’t really paying attention, and it happened so fast. All I know, is he was 18 and she was only 13! Her friends were encouraging her to go with them behind the post office, so they would be out of view; then, they could sip some beer and make out. I again tried to discourage her, but it was to no avail. She gave me no choice, so I followed along.
I wanted to protect her from the danger that was setting my senses on fire, but she was so quick to silence me. I angrily watched her sip his can of beer. I could tell she didn’t like it. Before she could even speak, his lips were on hers, and she started responding in kind! I felt beyond frustrated! His kisses suddenly became more aggressive and he started pulling her tighter against his groin.
I was raging hot, and told her we should leave, NOW! She only continued to ignore my existence, while she allowed the boy to pressure her into touching the swelling in his pants. I began to panick, so I reminded her of how she had been gone a long time, and her mother would kill her if she got caught! That, finally got her attention! She quickly pushed herself away from him.
It was then that we noticed her friends already left, and we were the only ones secluded from the safety of the crowd. My stomach was turning and my heart was seizing, so I reminded her again about her mother. She started to pick up my vibe, and she told him, more forcefully, that she had to go.
He responded by holding her tighter, while saying he didn’t want her to go – but… if she did him a favor, he MIGHT let her leave.
We were both feeling the horrific fear of the situation we were in, when she quietly asked in a quivered child’s voice, “What do I have to do?”
She was choking on her tears, but he didn’t care. He calmly pulled his penis out and told her to suck it.
“No way!” we screamed, and tried to run, but he held her too tightly to escape. I was terrified and disgusted, as I watched him throw her on the ground so hard her head bounced twice, as he simultaneously ripped her shorts off.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but because I was so scared, I cowardly fled. No words can describe how sorry I am. He freely did whatever he wanted to her body, because I left him alone, instead of fighting to the death for her. No matter how I try to remember, I still don’t know where I went; I was just suddenly gone. When I returned, she was struggling to pull her panties up and quietly crying. Her back was covered with mud and she was all wet from the pool of rainwater he threw her into. I looked around to see if he was still near, but he was long gone. I encouraged her be strong and get up, so we could try to find our family.
The moment we rounded the corner back into the fairgrounds, we locked eyes with her! Her mother was glaring through her soul, with the most anger and disgust any wild creature could manage! Before either of us could explain what had just happened, her mother grabbed her by the back of her hair and began yanking her in violent jerks towards the car.
When her mother noticed the mud on her back, she assumed half correctly – that sex had taken place. She began to punch her daughter in the head and slapping her face, as she continued to yank her to the car. She was screaming foul things and accusing her child of being a no-good-dirty-slut, that would spread her legs for anything with a dick. She told her daughter how gross she is, and how she is going to blister with herpes, and die of AIDS.
I tried to convince the sobbing, wounded, and innocent child to tell her mother the truth, but she was too far gone in her own rage and humiliation to speak up for herself.
The vile emotional berating and beating continued all the way home and into the house. Her mother didn’t even allow her to clean herself up. She made her go straight to bed, in spite of how she was filthy with mud and the putrid stench of the predator who feasted on her flesh.
Together, we laid in her bed and cried. I didn’t know what to say. I could have said, “I told you so.”, but a kind and loving conscience would never say such a thing, at a time like that. Instead, I silently vowed to do better next time. All I ever wanted, or will ever want, is to protect her from the harm men seem compelled to put upon her.
I felt so afraid, and useless. She had already endured so much, and I feared she wouldn’t trust herself anymore, and I would fade away into the darkness that frequently threatens to consume me completely. I couldn’t rightfully blame her if she chose to give up on me. All I could do, was try to reassure her that I was still with her, and always will be. I promised, as long as she’ll let me, I’d do my best to protect her, if anything bad begins heading in her direction again.
I cried harder, as I felt her cold body tremble violently. I hate to feel her pain so intensely, and I know I have to do a better job of looking out for her well-being, before it results in the death of us both.
It is my honor, and my most difficult burden, to look out for her; and, I know it is my duty to keep her under careful guard – if I am ever to become a good conscience.
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.