Sexual assault victim recalls a night in Maple Hall
That was what she kept saying.
“And I don’t want to say it was an accident because he knew what he was doing,” Addison said. “But I don’t think he would have called it rape.”
Sitting among scattered brushes and canvases in a dorm room she shares with a friend, Addison still loathes to call it rape.
“I don’t want to say that he was taking advantage because that makes me uncomfortable,” Addison said. “But I don’t feel like a rape survivor.”
She had recently moved into her Maple Hall dorm room, in fall 2015, when during a wing meeting, she met a funny guy named Toby.
Both Addison’s and Toby’s names are concealed in this story to protect their reputations. The North Texas Daily does not publish the names of sexual assault victims. Because this case was not investigated by authorities, and there were ultimately no convictions, the alleged assaulter’s name is also concealed.
One in four college women will experience some form of sexual violence, according to several studies, including a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities, in which 27.2 percent of college women reported unwanted sexual contact.
New faces on campus
To Addison, her relationship with Toby was simply a friendship.
During the spring 2016 semester, they grew closer. And on Toby’s birthday, in March, while they ate pizza, Toby said he was romantically attached to Addison.
“I thought, ‘oh my god, he’s attracted to me, but I’m not attracted to him,’” Addison said. “And I thought he was going to ask me out, but he didn’t and I was thankful for that.”
Not long after, one night in late April, Addison texted Toby, saying she was drunk. The exchange went on from there, but Addison remembers very little of it. She does recall some sexual exchange but says she’s certain she did not invite him to have sex.
The next thing she knew, Toby was at her door.
“I was like, ‘whoa, what are you doing?’” she said.
In an interview, Addison said she was highly intoxicated, but was conscious. She did not remember the details of the encounter, but she knows it involved intercourse. Addison said that while Toby did not force her into sex, she was drunk enough that he didn’t have to.
“I just feel like it was an instant regret,” Addison said. “If I had the option to, I would’ve backed out.”
According to UNT policy, consent refers to “words or actions that show an active, knowing and voluntary agreement” to take part in sexual activity. Consent must be given of one’s own free will and cannot be given when an individual is incapacitated due to the use of alcohol or drugs. An individual can also revoke their consent at any time.
[Take this survey about sexual violence at UNT Denton]
Within a few days of the incident, Addison told some friends about what had happened.
They told her she had been raped.
Her friends convinced her the incident needed to be reported, so Addison told a Maple Hall resident assistant. She said she was not aware that RAs must report incidents of sexual violence under a federal law known as the Clery Act. RAs, like most UNT faculty and staff, are campus security authorities and must report Clery crimes like sexual assault to the police.
When Addison got a phone call from her RA later that day, she was surprised to hear that she needed to talk to her hall director, and even more surprised to learn that the director would be filing a police report and a report to the dean of students office.
Students can stay anonymous in the police reports and that’s what Addison chose to do. She also decided to not give Toby’s name to authorities. The dean of students categorizes students like Addison as “reluctant complainants.” That means the case cannot be investigated further, which is what happened here.
“Survivors have the opportunity to tell us whatever they want to, and sometimes people choose not to tell us the respondent’s name,” McGuinness said, emphasizing survivors’ freedom to report what they decide.
While the DOS office approaches complaints from an investigative standpoint, UNT’s Survivor Advocate Renee McNamara simultaneously reaches out to survivors with assistance, care and resources. For her, a student like Addison is known as a “reluctant survivor.”
Addison said her impression of rape is something that happens in a dark alley, perpetrated by a stranger and what happened to her doesn’t fit that scenario.
In a 2015 report, the U.S. Department of Justice found that three in four rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.
“Research shows us that people that have been sexually assaulted or believe they’ve been sexually assaulted sometimes struggle with was it their fault or was it rape, and we know that from our work with survivors,” UNT Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said. “A lot of people struggle with reporting for those reasons, they wonder what they could have done differently. We are here to tell them that we’re here to help, no matter what.”
McGuinness said that while UNT cannot offer victims of sexual violence confidentiality, it promises to give them privacy. After reporting, all students are given access to the same resources regardless of whether their name is on the police report.
Students who think they may be a victim of sexual violence can contact the Dean of Students office at 940-565-2648, or visit the DOS or Survivor Advocate offices on the fourth floor of the Union. No appointment is necessary. The Survivor Advocate attempts to connect survivors of sexual violence with counseling, legal and academic resources.
“Each person handles trauma very differently,” McGuinness said. “You really can’t determine how they’ll handle it, but you can offer all you possibly can, and that’s what we try to do.”
Once she filed the anonymous report with UNT police, Addison was referred to a variety of resources for sexual assault survivors. While she said that everyone was helpful after she reported, Addison emailed with university counselors for a few days before deciding the resources weren’t for her.
“The resources here on campus … are so useful,” Addison said. “I mean, I never actually went to them but I know that the resources are great, and I’m glad that we have them here on campus.”
Addison said she is trying to forget the incident now.
“I don’t feel like a rape survivor,” Addison said. “I don’t feel like something drastic happened to me and changed my life. Saying the word rape makes me feel uncomfortable, which might also be a factor in why I don’t want to call it that.”
RESOURCES FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS:
UNT Survivor Advocate Renee LeClaire McNamara: email or 940-565-2648.
Denton County Friends of the Family 940-382-7273
UNT Counseling Center or 940-369-7617
Featured Image: Maple Hall, built in 1964. Dylan Nadwodny
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