What Comes Next: Resources for Healing after a Sexual Assault

The Bates Student, as a platform for student voices, is committed to allowing students to share their stories. On the sensitive topic of campus sexual harassment and assault, our priority is to assist survivors in their healing. Our aim is not to trigger survivors with graphic descriptions, but to provide everyone a space to share their story safely, should that sharing be a way they choose to heal. We encourage the readership to protect themselves and their mental well being first and will provide accurate content warnings where applicable. 

This piece contains mention, but no explicit description, of an on campus sexual assault.  If you are struggling with any issue related to this, you can confidentially reach out to Sexual Assault Victims Advocate Andrea Bucciarelli, located in Chase 223. She can be reached by calling 207-753-6996, or by emailing [email protected]

I was raped on campus almost two years ago, and I’m not interested in publishing the story of what happened to me, though I applaud those who are and want to emphasize my support for all survivors no matter what path to healing they choose. What I am interested in publishing is the story of what comes next. 

The day after I was assaulted, I met with the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate (SAVA). I didn’t want to come forward with a formal report yet, but friends told me that talking to her would be totally confidential and that she could connect me with more support. I told her what happened to me and she connected me with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). I’ve been using these services for almost two years and have found that they make a great difference in my life. 

She also encouraged me to go to the hospital to get a safe exam, which you may be familiar with as a “rape kit.” I had some physical complications after my assault and these led her to believe I needed medical attention. When you get a safe exam, you don’t have to do anything with that exam. It gets stored for 90 days in case you decide to file a police report, and unfortunately after those 90 days it is thrown out. I wanted to get the safe exam in case I changed my mind about reporting and to address the physical issues I was having as a result of my assault. The exam took several hours, and a local advocate was brought in to sit with me and help me through the process. They took pictures of the bruises on my back and arms and took samples from several parts of my body. This exam did not go through my insurance at all and was completely covered through government programs. 

The SAVA waited for me at the hospital to take me back to Bates afterwards. She asked me what my favorite food was, and I told her I really liked spicy tuna rolls. So she bought me my favorite sushi on the way back, and I can’t say I was happy, but I definitely felt better than I would have if I had to go to Commons after my exam. 

I met with the SAVA a few more times. I worked with Title IX and met with Gwen Lexow, Director of Title IX and Civil Rights Compliance. I found that she and the SAVA were incredibly helpful to me, and I remain grateful to them. I talked to Lexow about filing a formal report at a later point in the year when I felt I might be ready. I was later discouraged by changes to Title IX under Education Secretary Betsy Devos and decided against reporting my assault for a number of personal reasons. 

However, the support of the office of Title IX is not limited to survivors who wish to file a formal report. The office supported me fully in a variety of ways. They raised a flag in the system for my professors so that I wouldn’t have to feel pressure to go to class in the days following my assault and I could get extensions on my assignments. They have continued to communicate with professors on my behalf when I need them to. Lexow has helped me secure housing that is safely away from my assailant every year.

A big problem about being a survivor on campus is how small it is. On a larger campus, it’s very likely that a survivor could never run into their rapist again, but at a school as small as Bates, it’s almost impossible to avoid your assailant. We all eat in the same building three times a day. 

When I found it difficult to go to Commons for that very reason, Title IX gave me a card to use at the Den, where I ate all my meals for the rest of the semester. 

Through connecting me to CAPS, communicating with professors and housing, and helping make sure I had a safe space to eat, the office of Title IX has provided me with life-changing support. 

There are also some ways I feel that support for campus survivors could be increased. For instance, when I first spoke with the SAVA, I was told that there would be a survivor support group on campus and that this program had run in the past. However, I’ve not heard anything about this program since then. I think this would be an excellent way for survivors to support each other and be in community. 

Additionally, I had some difficulty with a professor refusing to give me an extension on an important exam after I missed a key day of review due to my safe exam. Title IX can communicate with your professors and raise a flag in the system for you, but I found myself lost when my professor chose to ignore this. I didn’t know what to do in that situation, and I think more information could be clearly communicated to survivors about what to do if your professor isn’t listening to the office of Title IX or being flexible with you. 

Finally, I’d imagine that those in power must be aware by now of what is happening on Blind Tiger, a social media app where Bates students have begun posting anonymous sexual assault allegations about other students. There should be an institutional response, and these complaints should be looked into as much as is possible. More importantly, there should be a message sent by Title IX with support for survivors offered immediately during this difficult time. The fact that so many people on campus are talking about sexual assault suddenly can be very difficult for survivors to handle, and I am dissappointed that the response from above has not been swift. 

I hope that my story of what happens after a sexual assault when you reach out for institutional support is helpful to survivors who are trying to decide what they should do. It’s important to know that you can access many forms of support without filing a formal report. I know that my experience is not universal, and I encourage other survivors to share their stories as well, anonymously or otherwise.