We Need to Talk About Sexual Violence

shutterstock_157009427Reprinted with permission from Old Gold & Black

TRIGGER WARNING: Some of the content in this column may contain triggers for individuals who have experienced various forms of sexual assault. Read at your own discretion.

Rape has become normalized in college culture.

It’s normal to wake up in a fellow student’s bed and not remember what happened or who someone is. It’s normal to black out and wake up with someone inside you.

It’s normal for silence to be taken as a yes.

It’s normal to call a girl a bitch if she doesn’t sleep with you and a slut if she does.

But this isn’t normal. It’s unhealthy and unacceptable.

No one talks about this and it’s time we start.

Between 1 and 4 and 1 in 5 women will be raped in college. I’m not one of them. I escaped a statistic.

If only.

I was raped when I was 17, but I didn’t accept it was rape until years later.

I was at a [high school] party [in my hometown] and consumed way more alcohol than my body could tolerate. I ended up kissing a boy I barely knew, a nice guy, I thought. I told him I was waiting for marriage; I didn’t want to have sex with him.

“Okay,” he said. I passed out and woke up to him inside of me. I cried and I screamed. I wanted my mother.

But my mother couldn’t fix this. She denied the incident happened; it was easier for her that way.

My father pressured me to go to court, saying if I didn’t press charges, I couldn’t classify it as rape. I didn’t press charges. I pretended the incident wasn’t rape. I began having sex constantly; I thought that would make it matter less.

All I wanted was for sex to be meaningless. I thought that as I had more sex, I would regain control of my body and my agency.

I thought I would begin to feel like a whole person again and that I could somehow regain the worth I felt I had lost.

But every time I had sex, it made things worse.

It wasn’t until the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college that I accepted I had been raped.

After accepting that, it was like my body shut down.

I developed vaginismus, a condition where upon penetration, my vaginal muscles would spasm, because my body thought it was being raped.

Since then, I’ve never been able to have intercourse without pain.

Last semester, I hooked up with a boy from Wake and I wasn’t able to lubricate.

“What’s wrong with you?” he demanded.

I wanted to tell him the truth.

That I had been raped.

That I’ve never had sex where it didn’t hurt so badly I wanted it to end.

That I used to have sex only because it made my rape feel more distant, but it no longer worked.

That I had never coped with what had happened to me.

That everytime someone mentions rape, I cry.

That I worry I will never get better.

That I feel jealous of my friends who get to have sex and enjoy it.

That I feel alone and like no one understands.

I’m a survivor of rape. I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. It’s time that we acknowledge rape as a crime and stop blaming the victim.

We need to have this conversation.

I challenge us to have that conversation now.

Get Ms. in your inbox! Click here to sign up for the Ms. newsletter.

Photo via Shutterstock


Elizabeth Stalfort is a senior at Wake Forest University, majoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. After she graduates in December 2014, she will move to Cape Town, South Africa for a four-month internship at SWEAT, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force.