Content warning: The following piece contains references to sexual assault and coercion, which may be triggering for some readers.
"Taylor of the Past," Taylor, the Survivor
Dear Taylor of the Past,
You’re now at college, congratulations! New and amazing memories will be created here: you will laugh till you cry and smile till your cheeks hurt. I do ask that you pay attention to the meetings on campus safety, reporting an incident, and consent (especially how an intoxicated individual cannot legally give consent to engage in sexual activity). Why do I ask this of you? Because college means experimenting with your limits and this will include alcohol limits. I am sorry to say you will not always be smart when testing your boundaries with alcohol. For there will be a night come winter quarter that will taint your memories for the remainder of your life.
The night will be cold as snow blankets the ground, but you will be warmed by the alcohol pumping through your veins. It starts out innocent as you drink with your girlfriends in one of their rooms, but then you will receive an invitation to a party, your first college party! It’s a small party with music and more alcohol to add to what you drank before coming over. While there, encouragement to continue letting drinks slither down the throat will echo in the ears. A guy will muster up courage to ask to dance, and a drunk agreement will escape the lips because who doesn’t like to dance?
In your haze you will remember to tell him that “We are not having sex”, quiet yet still audible. As the party continues, the ability to concentration or perceive surroundings decreases and blurs. Suddenly, the guy grabs your hand, leading to his bedroom in the back. You’ll start to realize what is happening when you are laid on the bed and panic will grip your heart. “Do you want to?” is thrown into the air, “No. No.” But suddenly clothes disappear and now how can you leave the room to your friends 10 feet away with nothing to cover yourself? A corner deep in the mind will welcome you and hold you until it is over. Desire for memory to cease to exist is strong as tears hinder the ability to see, making it difficult to leave the now forbidden apartment. Walking back to the dorm, a comparison is made between yourself and a newborn deer stumbling on unstable legs. You are now another statistic, one where alcohol was consumed when the assault occurred.
The next day while talking with a friend the word “Rape” escapes her lips, said in a gentle tone-yet it cuts the surrounding air. Shock arises as she confirms your fear. People will radiate with doubt as the words “Drunk mistake” are whispered, but you know the truth, you know you said no. With a strong mindset, a report will be filed and the exhausting process to healing begins. Several conduct meetings will be held with the school and him; I can tell you that he did not fully comprehend his actions that night.
After the assault, a single touch can cause the body to shiver in fear, and the thought of seeing the man on campus creates anxiety that squeezes the heart. Schoolwork will become strenuous and difficult to focus on and it will not be easy waking up or going to sleep for weeks. People will scrunch up trying to hide from the word rape; trying to hide from you. But deep down is the courage and the strength needed to push past all of the negative feelings, because I know you, and I know that you do not want a single man to determine your life. I also know that you would rather handle this than have it happen to one of your friends, but please don’t forget to take care of yourself. Over time the feelings of anxiety and fear will start to deplete but never completely leave. While the road may get bumpy, use it to educate and help others. Just remember that I will never stop believing in you.
Taylor, the Survivor
About the art:
This story was sent to us by a colleague who solicited a number of stories from their students - for an upcoming event on their campus. So I wanted to share one of them now in preparation for sharing the others next week! This piece is meant to be a powerful reminder for this survivor, who is clearly using the letter format in an intentional manner for this to be related beyond just their experience. Which, as unique as everyone's experiences can be, many of these stories begin to sound eerily similar. And those similarities serve as valuable reminders for folks to look out for each other and to find ways to take care of ourselves.