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OPINION: My worst nightmare

Amanda Buchanan, Contributor

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This article describes sexual-assault and its emotional aftermath. Reader discretion is advised. 

Powerless.

Denial.

Guilt.

Embarrassment.

Fear.

Anxiety.

Most of all: anger.

These emotions overwhelmed me the day I was sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault is often painted in a way that makes it the girl’s fault. But that was not my case. In fact, I was wearing not-too-tight flared jeans and a blue long sleeve shirt that went all the way up to my neck.

Surprising, right?  

The flashbacks are vivid. I see a place that was supposed to keep me safe but was the opposite. This place, which was supposed to be full of fun memories, became a source of the worst experience. It is the worst memory of my life. This place, my high school, looms large and ominous in my mind.

It was not a typical school day. It was the day before winter break and I was in charge of my first anti-bully campaign, a movie day. Through fundraising and the admission price I raised $300 for Know Resolve, an organization working to reduce youth suicides. What was supposed to be a good day is lost in the ugliness that followed.

He was a friend, one I’d known since ninth grade. I trusted him.

In the control booth of the school’s auditorium, I was excited for the movie to start. He was there with me.

“Break up with your boyfriend. I will treat you better.”

His hands overpowered me. I was trapped. Pushed up against a table, I was unable to find enough strength to push him off me. Helpless, scared and speechless, I realized I wasn’t a victim of bullying but of sexual assault.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to fight back. I wanted my friend that stood right next to us to make him stop. I wanted the 200 people that sat two feet from the wall that my body was pushed against, to stop him. But my body froze and the words that filled my mouth were gone. 

Embarrassment filled my head. I did not want anyone to find out. Instead of pushing him off of me, my friend later made the situation worse. She confronted the principal, and in that moment my bad dream became reality.

“He admitted that he was wrong but it’s all up to you. If you go to the cops, we will suspend him. If not, we aren’t going to.”

Why was that my choice? Isn’t that supposed to be their decision?

New emotions filled my mind. He was getting away with harming my emotional well-being. But I didn’t matter. All that mattered was the school’s reputation. Sexual assault can’t happen at their school.

But it did. To me.

He was given a one day suspension.

My mother is what it took to make it five. Her “over protective mom powers” came out. The principal’s hands trembled as my mom did what the school board should have done: got involved.

I never wanted to step foot in that school again. When the principal found out that I was transferring, he reduced my class schedule. All I had left was taking three classes to graduate. I loved school. Why would I only want to come to school for three hours? I lost valuable time in my own education.

Senior year was supposed to be made of laughs, smiles, and the year to make all the farewell memories. My senior year was nothing like that. I cried more than I smiled. My positive memories turned into a nightmare.

Every day, the flashbacks continued as I ran into him in the hallway. I wanted to hide from the feelings that were eating me alive.

He knew my schedule. There was no place to run.

Prom was cut two hours short. Because everywhere I looked, he appeared in the distance. Staring, and maybe not at me. But in my mind, I couldn’t get away. I had to get out of there.

As the legal case began, I was constantly reminded of that fateful day.  I didn’t have the strength to face him in court. I gave him a plea deal and he was charged with fourth degree sexual criminal conduct.

No sexual assault story is alike. Our wounds need to be healed, our stories need to be understood, and our words need to be heard. 

1 Comment

One Response to “OPINION: My worst nightmare”

  1. James Zentmeyer on June 8th, 2017 5:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. I cannot even begin to utter the statement, “I know how hard it must have been to write about this situation” because I have not been through it. So again, thank you for bringing this out from the shadows and into the light of day. My hope would be for anyone who shares this concern to seek out help and support, from the Counseling Center, from the GSA, from the Dean of Students, a private counselor or a preferred support organization off campus. For opening yourself up and being vulnerable you have my admiration, thanks and praise for showing such strength. All my very best, JZ.

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