Content Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
"The Flood," Meghan
I remember the rain. The news said it was a once in a decade flood, and as I sat volunteering during Panhellenic Recruitment, I remember feeling awful for all the beautiful girls dressed up in their finest. I typed out a message to him saying that I might not make our date because of the weather, and he assured me our date would be worth any trouble I met on the roads.
After a bad breakup and even worse experiences dating in a big city, I was surprisingly happy to find another member of the Auburn family on a dating app. We had attended AU at the same time, had a million friends in common, but had never quite met. Even with the pouring rain, I felt some butterflies walking into the bar. In retrospect, alarm bells may have already been ringing. A smart dresser, a gentleman, a flirt – he spent the evening reminding me I needed to catch up to him in drinks and charming me (and the friend we ran into at the bar) with stories about our shared time in Auburn.
After I was sufficiently relaxed, he suggested we head back to his place (located across the street) and watch some tv. A quick kiss in the rain led to more kissing in his apartment, which ultimately lead to a situation in which I said no and he didn’t honor my answer. My body flipped into a state of shock and blocked out what was happening – I only remember the sound of my heart in my ears and the feeling of my palms shaking. He pulled me close after and told me I wasn’t allowed to leave.
Weeks later, he texted me to try and return my jacket. Two days after that, he called me multiple times, offering to bring it to my apartment. His final text asked if I had got Plan B because he didn’t want a child. I typed back a frantic response explaining I was on birth control, to which he responded, “Smart girl.”
In the days after my assault, I typed out a disjointed explanation of what happened to a friend, who responded by asking if I had been assaulted. How could I - the student affairs professional who had supported so many students through trauma and taught them how to respond, the sorority sister who encouraged classmates to report their crimes, the strong female who was affectionately called the mom of my friends – be raped? How could I be a survivor?
But that’s what I am. I survived. I survived assault. I survived a fellow alumnus – a member of the family I had cherished so dearly - taking my security from me. I am a survivor, and it has become an essential part of my identity.
For months, I struggled to find ways to regain the other parts of my identity. I began going to yoga, learning to enjoy my body again. I continued to go to therapy, and fought back the anxiety that threatened to consume me. I fell in love, with someone who loved me for all the parts of me – including my survivor status. I learned how to tell my story to those I cared about, and it slowly got easier every time.
That night began with a flood – something destructive. And it was destructive – it was easily the worst night of my life. It changed me, in ways I will never fully be able to comprehend. But out of that flood came a stronger version of me. I gained compassion and understanding, I fought back against my challenges with more strength than I knew I had, and above all, I didn’t let this one night define me. Yes, it was a once in a decade flood, it was an assault that one out of six women will experience, but I, I am a once in a lifetime individual. The power that he wanted to exert over me was a failure. He doesn’t control me, he doesn’t own me, and he sure as hell doesn’t define me.
The flood didn’t drown me – I emerged cleansed. I am a survivor.
About the art:
Meghan's story hit me hard. There's a lot of great imagery and she uses it to share a truly powerful and heartbreaking trauma with the world. It takes a massive amount of courage to do so in such a thoughtful and compelling manner.
So I wanted to use her words - splayed all throughout the background of this piece - to make a statement that her words are dynamic and important. The quote she chose for the foreground comes from John Updike and perfectly matches the imagery and evocative nature of her story.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Meghan!