"We are not responsible for the safety of our students."
That statement, made by my previous university, rings in the ears of me and my mother to this day.
Here is why:
During my first year of college at Tulane University, I lived in a dorm room with my roommate. Our dorm room was part of a suite, connected to the dorm room of two other freshman girls by a bathroom. Similar to other suites in our residence hall, the bathroom that connected our dorm rooms could only be locked from the inside, preventing people from entering it while it was in use. Because it could not be locked from the outside, my roommate and I always had to sleep with our bathroom door unlocked.
One night, I woke up to a stranger sexually assaulting me in my bed. After reporting the crime to my university and police, I discovered that he was another freshman student: he entered my dorm room through the bathroom door, intoxicated.
Since that night, my mother and I have gone through hell as she has relentlessly fought for me. She supported my decision to have him arrested, sitting with me through the reporting process. She stood with me through the student conduct process and criminal justice process, arguing for my rights whenever they were threatened or violated. After my perpetrator was disciplined by our university, she accompanied me to court so I could testify against him, sitting with me through his trial. When the judge found him not guilty, my mother helped me to continue fighting for justice, supporting my decision to sue him and Tulane University.
I have gone through several academic, financial, and mental health issues because of my sexual assault...a tragedy that could have been prevented. Yet, the university that my mother and I trusted with my life, stated, "We are not responsible for the safety of our students."
At the end of my rope, I transferred to Loyola University New Orleans. As much as I have healed, I continue to see sexual assault survivors facing injustice. How many survivors have someone fighting for them like my mother fought for me? How many survivors have the support that I had and still have to this day? Without my mother and the others who helped me, Tulane University would not have disciplined my perpetrator...there would not have been a criminal trial, and I would have been silenced.
That is why we started stopsexualassault.org. We started it to guide other survivors and their loved ones through everything we went through. We started it to protect other students and parents from a nightmare like ours.