By Eden Paul
I was raped and assaulted, then forced to participate in a process that tried to steal my dignity and resulted in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and deprived me of my educational opportunity.
I can still remember the laughing as I entered the room of joking PSU Board of Trustees members—the people who would decide the outcome of the hearing—who seemed more prepared for a casual meeting than a hearing where I was to describe a violent rape and assault. I remember them making me watch the surveillance video again and again—a video of me walking with a complete stranger—and telling me I didn’t look drunk enough as I walked into the Broadway Building elevator with my rapist moments before the brutal rape took place.
That video still haunts me every day in my memories. I realized then what they were looking for was an easy way out. To them, I was the problem in the situation, not the violent rapist, but me the victim. I was the one tarnishing PSU’s reputation. If they could point to any inconsistencies, they could cover my story up. The result is they concluded this was a case of consensual sex.
I was not only raped, I was raped with a tampon inside me: the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life, and I have endured rheumatoid arthritis since I was 12 years old, at times so bad I have been in a wheelchair. I was strangled, and I was punched, right over my heart, repeatedly, so hard I could have died.
I had a rape kit done at the hospital, and they gave me a shot to make sure I didn’t receive any STIs. The shot made me so sick I was retching all night on the bathroom floor. The substantial bruising left all over my body, around my neck, chest, my blood-covered bra, as well as the tampon collected after the rape kit was done, was all cataloged as evidence. I thought it was enough to prove this student was dangerous—so dangerous he should be removed from the school and imprisoned.
The assault affected my life in many ways. Two years ago, I attempted suicide. I felt hopeless and lost. I still have nightmares about the assault. Four years later, my PTSD has gotten worse. I can’t go out alone; I must watch my back every time a man walks behind me. I can’t hold eye contact with people like I used to. I sit at home most days not able to do anything I enjoy anymore. I used to love writing poetry. I used to draw, make cards for people, make jewelry, hang out with friends, go to museums, go for hikes and walks. I used to love school; I have always loved learning new things.
I enjoyed doing these things. These things kept me going after my sister died when I was 15, something that devastated my life. I lost all those things when I was raped, beaten and then alienated by PSU. To top it all off, I have recently been diagnosed with a disease called interstitial cystitis caused by the extreme brutality of the assault, something that causes pain similar to passing a kidney stone.
When I was accepted to PSU, I was so excited. I had a 4.0 GPA when I transferred to PSU as a sophomore. I worked really hard at my first school to maintain the scholarship I received because if I did, it would transfer to my next school. I lost all of that when I was beaten and raped.
I stopped attending classes because I would see my rapist on campus. I would start to have a panic attack and feel crippled with fear. He even smiled at me once while I was just trying to print my homework in the library: a look that felt like a reminder of who held all the power. Some of my professors were understanding and did not completely fail me, but others weren’t as sympathetic. My GPA dropped, and money dwindled. I still had to pay for these classes I had failed, a constant reminder of the injustice of it all.
I dropped out. I couldn’t even fathom going back to class when my safety was not promised. I worried he might kill me at times. I lost my scholarship and any hope of graduating and moved back home. He, on the other hand, got to graduate and go on to a career promising him money and a future.
So why am I writing? I am writing this to help anyone out there that shares my experience in any way. I want you to be heard. After my assault, I went to get a restraining order, which I so gratefully received, but while I was there, there were two or three other women from PSU with stories similar to my own, doing the only thing they could to protect themselves because of a school that failed us.