An Assault, An Anniversary, A Cry: The Story Of My Sexual Assault

An Assault, An Anniversary, A Cry: The Story Of My Sexual Assault

It's time for my story to be heard
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October 29, 2012 will feel like yesterday for the rest of my life.  There are people who are going to hate me for writing this story, and there are people who hate me for the fact that this story had to be written.

But this story needs to be written. It's been begging to be let out, crawling slowly and not so quietly, waiting for the right time to reveal itself. Just like a beast. And that's kind of what this story is. 

Many of us have an “It’ll never happen to me,” attitude towards life.

“I’ll never be the one to get a ticket while jaywalking." 

“I’m not going to be busted for drinking in my dorm room.” 

“There’s no way I would get mugged walking through the city at 2a.m.” 

Or “I’m not going to get raped." 

I had this attitude and most of my friends still do. I had this attitude until the last thing on that list happened to me.  

A lot of people are probably picturing me wandering through campus in the early hours of the morning, alone and vulnerable. Getting pulled off the street by a stranger and abused. That would be wrong, and it’s an unfortunately common misconception. What I actually think is scarier is that over 80 percent of college sexual assault survivors know their perpetrator. They are “friends," classmates, and neighbors. I’m a part of that 80 percent.  

I am going to clarify right now that any decision I made that night leading up to the incident did not justify what happened. That is something that has taken me a while to understand. I put myself in that location with that person but it did not give him a right to do what he did to me. No one ever has the right to violate you.   

Something else you may be thinking is, “was there alcohol involved?” On my end, yes. On his end, admittedly no. That put him in a position of advantage, and ultimately a position of power. Being sober and perfectly capable of recognizing the situation before him. What happened was a conscious choice on his part. And it was not an option for me. Universities and governments struggle with the definition and application of consent. There is muddled terminology and there are so many conflicting views. I can tell you, however, that you cannot give consent when you are slipping in and out of consciousness. This I know.   

The details of the incident do not matter. What matters is the acknowledgment of this as a story that too many college students- both male and female- could share from a firsthand account.   

Six months later, I began the process of recognizing what had happened. That’s another thing that a lot of people don’t understand; it takes a hell of a long time to admit it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever accept it. It may sound simple for an outsider to tell me I should have just reported it or dealt with it sooner. Do you know what it’s like to have to call your mom and tell her what happened to you? To place your pain on the people who brought you into this world and would do anything to go back and save you from what happened? Now tell me I should have just reported it earlier.   

Was I scared? Yes. Was I embarrassed? In the strangest way, I was. I was afraid that I would be looked down on and that I would be shamed and blamed. Has that happened? Unfortunately, yes. But the only way out is through, and I see that light at the end.  

Do you know what happens when you report things like this? Best-case scenario, you get the support you need and everything is fair and just. I lost faith in my university when I went through the process with them. On both sides, they lacked support. They neglected to provide both parties with information in a timely manner. The summer of 2013 was the longest by far, and for all the wrong reasons. Sitting in front of a panel for four hours during a hearing at the end of July was nothing short of terrifying. I felt alone, raw, and full of unknowns.   

When the things that aren’t supposed to happen to you do in fact happen to you, you realize who is really there for you. Some amazing people came through for me. Some others backed out of my life. A lot of lessons on trust and loyalty came from this experience. I’ve learned to be thankful for the lessons in life that I have gained through something so negative.   

When in the past few months have you gone on social media or turned on the news, and not seen a report about sexual assault and the law, the military, colleges, the White House or Greek life? I share this story with too many people. It scares me to understand how all of those people feel. It scares me that they know what it’s like for me. One person experiencing this is too many. It’s everywhere. It’s a hot topic. It’s being talked about.   

I’m talking about it.   

This is a cry for universities to amend their policies. This is a cry for people not to push someone to report too quickly. This is a cry for police and legal officers to recognize the great steps one takes when they do report.   

This is a cry for everyone who has experienced this to stand up and be strong, to be a survivor, and to never be labeled as a victim.   

Two years ago on October 29th, and now I have the control. I have made the conscious choice to use my experience to educate, to advocate, and to make change. I admit and accept that what happened is a huge part of me. But through all the adversity, the fights, the bureaucracy, the panic, and the late nights, I know in my heart I have come out on top and stronger than ever. 

Because I will never let it define me. 

Cover Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel_(pedestrian_underpass_in_Tbilisi).jpg

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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In Case You Didn't Know, Florida Will Be Greatly Affected By These Three Amendments

In my opinion, Amendment 2 and 5 are the two most important amendments on this year's Florida ballot.

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In addition to the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), meeting every 20 years, Florida also has a commission named the Taxation & Budget Revision Commission (TBRC) which also meets every twenty years and the last commission was in 2008. However, there are budget amendments on the 2018 Florida ballot. Three amendments are noted as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. 49 states have a law in place for citizens to vote on these types of proposed constitutional amendments. Florida is the only state that has several commissions that meet to address changes to their constitution.

The three amendments proposed by Florida's legislation are:

Amendment1 – Increase Homestead Property Tax Exemption

Amendment 2 – Limitation of Property Tax Assessments

Amendment 5 – Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

Amendment 1 proposes to increase the homestead exemption for homes in the state of Florida over the value of $100,000. The ballot summary reads, "Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect on January 1, 2019."

The median property tax value of a home in the state of Florida is $182,400. In Orlando, the median home value is appraised at $228,600. Currently, 3.34% of Orange Counties homeowners property tax is part of the county's yearly income. To decrease this amount by any percentage causes the state and counties to find other avenues to recover this loss. In addition, if small counties are unable to recover the loss this will backfire as they will be forced to reduce their public services.

Amendment 2 proposes to limit property tax assessment increases on a specified non-homestead real property, with the exception of school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. In 2008, voters approved the 10 percent cap but is set to expire in January 2019. The ballot summary reads, "Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on a specified non-homestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect on January 1, 2019."

If this amendment is not made permanent the assessment of commercial property taxes will revert to full property value. This amendment is important to all Floridians and if fails the results can be a burden on everyone.

Amendment 5 proposes to require two-thirds of the legislature to increase taxes or fees amendments. This means each chamber of the Florida State Legislature must have a two-thirds with the exception of corporate income tax. The ballot summary reads, "Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district. "

This means a tax increase or fee amendment cannot be increased unless a single party controlled a majority of the seats in the state Senate and the state House. This amendment also states no other subject can be carried with this vote. There are 15 states that require a supermajority vote.

Final thoughts on these three amendments.

Amendment 1 has its merits for homeowners that want to save a few hundred dollars on their taxes. What it does not do is benefit every Floridian and if passed will eventually be a burden as well. The counties that don't get the benefit of the income from the tax will eventually cause them to cut costs in other places like school funding, and municipal services. The government agencies could find a way to recoup the loss, by increasing sales tax, gas tax, or enact a state wage tax.

Amendment 2 needs to be passed because it is in place and has been in place since 2008. It will expire in January 2019, and if we fail to pass it will become another financial burden to the taxpayers. Non-homestead property taxes will increase which causes a burden on business, and Floridians will be affected by either raising prices to absorb the costs or reducing their workforce.

Amendment 5 is just common sense. The state should have enacted this amendment in 1968 instead of the CRC and maybe we would not have a commission every ten to twenty years to review our constitution.

In my opinion, Amendment 2 and 5 are the two most important amendments on this year's Florida ballot.

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