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*Trigger Warning: This story recounts someone's personal experiences with sexual assault and harassment*

College is supposed to be the greatest time of your life, or so we’re told by movies, books, television, and sometimes even the adults in our lives. That’s what I believed going into my freshman year at Baylor University. That I was going to have the best four years of my life.

I hoped my time at Baylor would end in a degree and hopefully holding hands with the love of my life. You see, I have always been a romantic, and I have always loved reading. From every romance novel I had ever read you either find the love of your life in college, right after college, or after some terrible hardship. Or they had been there the whole time, and only the reader knew it while the two main characters were just oblivious. Something else about me is I have always been too trusting. I tend to see the best in people and always give people the benefit of the doubt thinking that everyone has the best intentions. I was raised in a small town, and most people I knew were like that.

When I got to Baylor I just assumed nothing bad would happen, I mean how could it? I had planned on rushing and surrounded myself with girls and boys who planned on doing the same. Quickly, I realized a lot of guys took interest in me. I thought it was friendly. I never had a ton of guy attention in high school. I was the nerd who was somehow a cheerleader. I was naive. I was at a sorority mixer, and a guy from my friend group who I didn’t know very well messaged me and asked if I wanted to go to dinner. I assumed it was with the group since I’d only met him a few nights before. I said yes, and he showed up alone saying our friends would meet us there. My therapist said he most likely slipped something in my drink, since the rest of the night comes to me in pieces. The last thing I remember was him asking if girls from my home town kiss good.

I woke up, and it was like watching yourself. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t process. I blacked out from the pain. A guy from the group messaged me and said so you’ll sleep with him and not with me. I told him I thought I was raped and from there the intense sexual harassment ensued. I couldn't go to class. I couldn't go to the dining halls. I couldn’t even go to other dormitories without being called names I will not type, followed, whispered about, laughed at, mocked, told I wanted it, told it was his word against mine… I think the picture is clear. I did terrible in school, drank excessively, and even tried sleeping with my rapist again after my rape. But I was left so broken. I showered so many times my skin was left broken, raw, and bleeding. I was emotionally raw as well and just done at that point. That’s when I started wearing baggy clothes and never talked to him ever again.

Flash forward to what would have been my sophomore year, and I finally told my family and some friends. I told the school. And they helped me some but really didn’t. He never got in trouble. The police told me getting a legal case with no evidence would be a waste of time, and Title IX told me the same. He is still at the school and will graduate this year. I took six months off, went back for a full year and then left for good this past spring. The harassment never stopped, and I never felt like the judgement did either.

I didn’t handle my rape right, not that there is a right way to handle it. However, I did get an ending I think is worth writing about. I found the love of my life, and he was right in front of me - for ten years before we dated. I now have such a tight group of friends. Even though they are all different and don’t all know each other, they are all so important to me and mean the world to me. I finally left Baylor and feel free after 3 years of feeling trapped. The system failed to help me, but that’s ok. It took something terrible to find out who was truly there for me and for me to find the ending I always romanticized about.

But I don’t think the ending needs to be about a guy anymore. My family, including the guy I do love, never doubted my assault. My mother, the small amount of friends I have left, my boyfriend; the people that are my family and make up my extended family. They believe in me and ultimately each one of these people who know what happened saved my life. And while I did find the love of my life, I found something even greater. I found that in order to truly love someone else you need to start from within. Never forget to love yourself, no matter what you are going through.

My name is Hannah, and I’m a survivor of sexual assault and harassment.

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