Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter: Surviving sexual assault at UMass

Sexual assault had a detrimental impact on my college career, but my story isn’t over
Collegian File Photo

Editor’s note: The author’s name has been withheld due to the nature of this letter. This letter contains discussions of rape and sexual assault. Resources for survivors of sexual assault can be found here. The University has since accepted the author’s proposal for revised academic requirements.

To Whom it May Concern,

I’m a student at the University of Massachusetts, but my graduation date is unclear. I hope to graduate in the fall of 2022, but after running from office to office on our large campus, I’ve gotten mixed opinions. I was a freshman in the fall of 2018 but dropped out for the spring semester. I think context is important to this story.

I struggled to acclimate to college. As an accomplished high school student, I took numerous AP classes, captained my hockey team for two years and held down multiple jobs over the years. I’m more than happy to provide references. I took a year off to live in South Carolina and compete my horse, then returned to school. I found that I was lonely, depressed and not handling the adjustment back to academia well; however, I was not met with many options to find help with my mental health. I was told the school therapists book three months out, I should just remedy things with my roommate instead of moving out, or I should withdraw from some of my harder classes. All these recommendations were made halfheartedly and with no support. I turned to my only friends as I started to buckle under the weight.

We went out a lot, as struggling freshmen do. Everyone says I’m lucky these details are blurry; I can’t remember the exact evening we went out, but I remember the important parts. I remember leaving with a guy I thought I trusted (judgement of a teenage girl, right?), being brutally raped and returning to my dorm. I came home at four in the morning, lied down in the communal bathroom shower stalls, sobbed my broken heart out and passed out. I came to, went back to my room soaking wet and bruised, and slept for another ten hours. I spent the rest of the weekend being the butt of many jokes. My friends laughed at the bruises encircling my throat, and I laughed with them. Where would I have learned better coping skills?

I stopped accepting invitations to hang out with my friends. Everything reminded me of him. Their laughter reminded me of that night, being at the party, leaving with him. I stopped going out. I thought I saw him on campus, in my classrooms, in my dorm. I spent most of my time at my horse’s barn, which I had to bike 30 minutes one way, and in the dark frequently. I stopped eating. I took overnight shifts at my food service job just to get off campus, out of my dorm, and out of my head. I started masochistically watching Game of Thrones, rewatching the violent sexual assault scenes. I lay awake in bed at night, sweating as I came in and out of nightmares. Where would I have learned better coping skills?

I kept going to my classes, though! I listened to the values of Kant and sociology of the family, I lived in my math professor’s office hours and I slaved over biology. Sometimes I’d be sitting in class and I’d abruptly come back to my body, as if I never returned after he took it from me. I’d puke in the bathroom, try to wash the chunky bits of vomit out of my hair, and go back to class. Did you know the whole Brett Kavanaugh nomination was happening at this time? I followed it like a religion.

I started as a chemistry major but was always drawn to this finicky thing we call the judicial process. It was academic interest of the nomination in the beginning, but my following of the events did devolve into morbid fascination. We all watched the televised edition of what happens to abused women who come forward. I remember Christine Blasey Ford’s name better than my own some days.

Watching Brett Kavanaugh scream, cry and throw a general temper tantrum broke me a little more. I hadn’t cried about what happened to me since a few guttural sobs on the shower floor immediately after. And here was a grown man, using emotion to appeal to his audience. Dr. Blasey Ford lost. We, as a country, lost. We have a man (two, really, with Clarence Thomas) on the Supreme Court who got away with sexual assault. Brett Kavanaugh will be hearing arguments on the Texas Abortion Ban soon. Do you think he is impartial when it comes to women’s rights?

Did you know Dr. Blasey Ford’s life is ruined?

I’m getting off topic.

So, I stopped going out and I went to my classes like my life depended on it. At the end of the semester, I took my last biology exam before finals. It was snowing when I got out at 9 p.m. I had studied nonstop for three weeks — memorizing biochemical mechanisms really takes your mind off how it feels to wake up to someone having sex with your body. I was exhausted and I hadn’t changed my pants in four days. But I was passing! I decided to finally accept an invitation from my friends to “go out and have fun.” Their idea of fun was going to a fraternity.

Fast forward a couple of hours and I am incoherently trying to tell someone to stop having sex with me. Gosh, I always end up here! Maybe it’s the true nature of girls, or fraternity culture or a UMass thing. My friends speculate I was drugged, but who can tell with teen girls? After what felt like an eternity of trying to raise my head, I was able to somehow exit the room, sans keys, shoes or dignity. My legs gave out as I made it to the porch, and I very “Black Swan”-esque tumbled into the snow. After a moment or two I dragged myself back onto the porch, where I lay down. There were boys on the porch, but why would they help me? It was already a great show with a barefoot, barely dressed girl falling into the snow at their feet. A couple of senior girls found my body.

They brought me inside where I threw up for two hours. They carried me home with no shoes, no keys, and incoherent still. They told me the best thing I could do was forget what happened to me. It happened to them, and it happens all the time at UMass. I never even got either of the boys’ last names.

I couldn’t study anymore. My little island of safety was dragged underwater by another boy who wanted to f–k my comatose body. That was the first time I had gone out in two months, and that happened to me? I must’ve been asking for it, absolutely begging.

Anyway! I took my finals, which required a herculean effort to get out of bed for, and packed up my things. I dropped out. ‘If that’s what it takes to be a UMass student, I don’t have it,’ I thought to myself. I took my nice little 2.3 GPA, diminished sense of self-worth, irreparably damaged perception of trust and freshly healed throat, and f–ked off to South Carolina again. Imagine being 19, violently traumatized and watching Dr. Blasey Ford being eviscerated by the general public for coming forward. If you expected me to report what happened to me, do you think you could’ve? Do you think you could’ve handled that situation admirably at 19?

I know you probably enjoy a comeback story like anyone else, so yes, I came back to UMass. I’ve received a 4.0 every semester I’ve been back, and currently have a 3.7. Here is the real reason for my sob story: I’ve been trying for years to come back from those five worst months of my life. I am eligible for a medical incomplete, but I would need to attend the University for another semester to retake the classes. I can retroactively make one class pass/fail, but not a gen-ed. Or I can take my GPA and deal with what I’ve been dealt.

However, I’ve since changed from being f–ked in a pool of my own vomit at a frat. I’m now a dual degree major and a foreign language minor. I’m going to law school and will hopefully graduate school after. I want to practice law, and I want to be the best. I want to go to a top law school, but it is nearly impossible without the right GPA, among other things. I’m confident in my ability to deliver everything else for a law school application to a top ten school.

Let’s go through my options. I can keep struggling against this yoke I’ve put around myself by suffering after being raped. I can clear it from my record but work twice as hard to get a $12,000 redo and try to pretend it never happened (but it will remain a neat reminder of what those boys did to me on my transcript). I can take my modest GPA and go to a reasonable law school. There is nothing wrong with any of those options; however, the message I’m receiving is that it is my responsibility. I am responsible for what those boys did to me. I have to dig myself out of this hole, alone.

So, I am asking for a way out of this hole. I’m asking for a pass/fail rendering of each of my classes from the semester of fall 2018. If the University has the means to allow for gen-eds and major requirements to be taken pass/fail during the “COVID-19 semesters,” I expect the same courtesy. I am happy to have my psychiatrist write to support my proposition and I am happy to explain in more detail my reasoning.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Anonymous UMass Student

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • P

    Peter HoulihanJan 31, 2022 at 12:03 pm

    The Every Voice Coalition, led by a UMass Alum, had their Campus Sexual Violence Bill passed in MA last year. UMass Admins resisted listening to survivors’ requests for changes on campus, perhaps this law will force change.

    The bill provisions include:
    Access to free medical and legal support services.
    Anti-retaliation protections for reporting parties from being punished for breaking the school code of conduct at the time of an assault.
    Confidential advising services that clarify survivors’ rights & options
    Transparent data on sexual violence, gathered anonymously and published publicly.
    Universal, evidence-based annual prevention and response training for employees and students.

  • K

    KTJan 31, 2022 at 8:04 am

    My heart aches for this student because I, too, was sexually assaulted when I was an undergraduate at UMass.

    The guy who got me was a graduate student whom I met on the elevator of the Tower Library because I had been assigned a study carrel on the 22nd floor by my major’s department. Those carrels were reserved for top ranking students and I did very well in school so I received a note from my department telling me I could have one if I wanted. Being a nerd, and motivated to do well, I took the carrel and eventually met people on the elevator. The shy bookworm came out of her shell. . . .

    I never expected to go to a movie and get date raped afterward, but that’s what happened. I told nobody for the same reasons discussed here. My attack happened in senior year so it didn’t affect my grades
    (because I dove even harder into my work) but it changed my life. Forever.

    I’ve stayed single, no kids. Nobody’s allowed to get close. I’m still a hard worker and I found a lot of things in life that I enjoy, but that changed me. .My attacker? He just celebrated 17 years teaching at a local college. He reached out to me years ago through LinkedIn because apparently to him that night was no big deal and he doesn’t feel any remorse.

    I ignored him in LinkedIn and did not return the message.

    I’m glad this student wrote and spoke out. I’m on the verge of doing something brave in my professional life but could never do it unless I had faith in my strength.

    My strength comes from surviving things like that brutal attack at UMass. I hope this student continues to speak out and stays strong because her voice matters and it’s imperative that victims of crime — every crime — step forward and request help and change. It’s also impressive that UMass do better for its students.

    I pray the administration makes the right moves here to accommodate this student. No policy is written in stone. I hope the author seeks the advice and counsel of an attorney who can advocate for her. Stick with those horses. Identify the attackers. Reach out for help from local law groups.
    Seek justice. People will help. We care.