“I don’t know the whole of what you’re going through and I sympathize, but every student has their hardships. You still need to come to class.”
That’s what I heard today, at Amherst College. So is that it? Do I have to either re-traumatize myself and tell you what happened to me or do I just get to look like the most irresponsible person on the planet? After all, the deans can only do so much, right?
It’s been months and months since this happened and yet three weeks before I get to finally leave I’m still having meetings with professors where I go, I come back to my dorm, I cry my eyes out, and then I go about my business without the world knowing how much a burden this is to carry. This is not how it should be at this college. Not after last semester.
I heard about this website from a friend who explained that they take submissions, which is why I’m writing today. I can’t say that Amherst hasn’t tried making some changes, but the way things are handled at this school, even still, do NOT give survivors places in which to heal. They bring them further down.
I used to love this school more than anything. And now? Well, not so much. The dean has been really nice, thank god, but unless you’re on top of your game and emailing people constantly and being open with your professors you’re not “trying enough.” And people are really “concerned” about your progress but once they see you’re not putting in enough work it becomes “well now we can’t excuse it.” I had someone say to me, “well the Dean did email us to excuse you from classes but your professor saw you in Val 15 minutes before class so we really can’t excuse that.” Now, she doesn’t know what happened to me, and she’s a wonderful professor, so of course she assumes, “well this student is just intentionally skipping class and being irresponsible,” and an email from the dean simply goes ignored. Fine. But last time I checked, people who were sexually assaulted were allowed to fucking have something to eat or talk to people in Val and not go to class afterwards. Forgive me for trying to distract myself with my friends. I deserve a big fat zero on my participation grade for that one.
And it’s bull. The counselors are better, thank god. I was “lucky enough” (yeah right) that this happened right at the beginning of the semester, when I could ditch the idiot counselor at the counseling center who just had no idea how to talk to someone like me, for one of the new sexual assault counselors they’ve just hired. If there’s one thing they’ve done right, it’s that. I don’t know how I’d be able to survive on this campus without that woman. But I shouldn’t be looking forward to the days I see her, I shouldn’t be hiding out and crying in my room when near none of my friends really, truly know what’s going on. And one of the friend out of two who does know just doesn’t care that much. She’s got her own life, here at Amherst. “Every student has their hardships,” just like my professor said.
People still don’t get it. And part of me just wants to walk up onto the steps in front of Frost and show them exactly what it’s like. To not be focused, to cry so hard you throw up, to want to have any other person’s life but your own. It’s excruciating, and I’m surprised some mornings that I actually do have good days.
I’m doing better. For the most part, thanks to that other friend, who, though he doesn’t really understand what’s going on with me, is trying so hard, and is really working with me and grounding me the way I need. And because of the sexual assault counselor. Who knew that would end up going so well.
But I SHOULD NOT be relying on friends to keep me grounded, to make sure I’m okay. The college should be doing that. My “good days,” and I’ve even had one or two good weeks, should NOT be because I haven’t cried over my classes. This is Amherst College–after last semester, class should be the least of my problems. Especially considering I’m failing none of them. How I pulled that off, don’t ask me. I’m lucky enough that I’m smart enough to bullshit through it all, I suppose.
This college still has a lot of changing to do. And I don’t know how it should be done, but let me tell you it’s gotta happen quick.
Because my job? Is to do my homework as best I can, considering, and to HEAL. Because if I need to miss class or turn in an assignment late and get a B- or even something like a C that should be fine by you. It’s passing. And I’m paying tuition, aren’t I? It’s MY call to stay in school, to fuck up classes if it means getting my mental health together. It’s MY decision if I want to screw up a class if it means finishing my education in four years. And you know something? I have an A in one of my classes this semester. Guess why? Because this professor has been the most understanding and lenient woman on the planet, and she’s given me space to get myself back together.
There’s a lot of things I understand, that the college does. The way they handled things like this, I did understand, once upon a time. But that was because I never knew. I wasn’t there.
And if anyone reads this I’m hoping that they can see what it’s like to “survive” at this college, even if they’ve never been there themselves. And they should know, that though we’ve come a long way, we still have a hell of a lot to change. And that needs to happen SOON.
But even on the days like today, where I can barely breathe, there’s still hope. I’m lucky, in some regards. I don’t have to deal with seeing someone that attacked me on campus every day, I can take solace in the fact that I’m in charge of my own sex life, and I never have to sleep with anyone again, if I want. I want to, at some point, sure. I don’t want to have to feel this way about sex, about my body. Not forever. But not having to deal with what happened in that respect, is what makes me lucky, throughout all of this.
So if that’s the case, I should be well on my way to healing, even here. Right? Not right. Like my professors tell me, that I’ve gotta meet them halfway, I expect the school to do the same. Regardless of what my past history may be.
This is Amherst College. This is the school that fucked up and was supposed to be a role model for change–for admitting they made mistakes and that they were ready to work with the students to fix them. So why is this happening to me now? Why do I keep getting re-traumatized when all I want to do is be left in peace? I got into Amherst College–I think I’m intelligent enough to be aware of the decisions I’m making and the way my grades are. Don’t you think maybe, I’ve thought about this myself? That I’ve thought, I’m just gonna push through these last few weeks and study my ass off over the summer to catch up for next year, in a place where I can have space away from all of this and space where I can ACTUALLY get my life back together?
This isn’t how things should be. And if this is happening to me, I can’t even begin to imagine how many others have gone through this. It happened here, and it still happens here. And why we’re not making this our number one priority, in terms of change, astounds me. Amherst College wouldn’t be a college without it’s students, right? So where’s our voice? Where’s our place in all this?
I will not be silenced anymore. I learned through Angie that speaking out brings others the bravery to do so themselves. And I’m anonymous, because I’m not ready to come out about this yet. I’m still healing. But one day, maybe as a senior or maybe as an alum, you can bet your ass I’ll be back here ready to speak out, for change, change that this school desperately needs. But more importantly, I can be there for the girls like me. The girls who need a hand to hold in the darkness of it all, who need someone to say “I’ve been there too,” and someone to say that even at this place, you can get better. And you have the power, even through your sole voice, to make a change.
And for me? With writing this? That change starts now.