Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Survivors

Sexual Assault is a sensitive topic that we realize many people don’t want to think about. But a lot of individuals, both men and women, are sexually assaulted every day. In order to end this, we need to raise awareness for sexual assault and bring justice to each survivor.

We created scenarios from past clients to showcase who can be sexually assaulted and when. These are stories we have heard many times from people who call our hotline. Both men and women can be a survivor of sexual assault. We are so, so proud of each and every survivor that gained the courage to call for help.

For more information regarding sexual assault, please visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) website here.

***If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault or another violent crime, reach out to Wise Options today at 1-800-326-8483.

 

Dylan

Joining the military at 18 was my best choice. I wasn’t very good at school, there wasn’t a particular skill I was better at than others, and I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. So, I joined the Air Force.

air force jacket

Graduating from high school, I immediately entered boot camp. It wasn’t fun, but it didn’t hurt much. Not nearly as much as what happened three years in, though.

It was a nice Saturday. Well, a nice day for July in norther Florida. Quite a few people had weekend passes to go home. I chose to stick around since I’d seen my family just a few weeks ago.

That was a mistake.

A bunch of the guys went off base that night; they wanted to drink and see girls. They asked me to go with, but I wasn’t in the mood for partying.

Sitting on the steps of my barrack, I had some paper and a pen in my hand, the light shining right on me. It was my parents I was writing when he came up.

His last name was Dakota and he’d enlisted around the same time as me. He’d asked me out a few times, but the last time I told I didn’t swing that way. Nodding his head, I thought that meant he understood.

There were two others behind him, and I didn’t know them at all.

With a look around us, they dragged me inside and threw me against the floor before starting to kick and punch me. I remember screaming but no one was around to hear me.

Dakota whispered in my ear, “This is for saying no.”

Feeling his hands at my waist, I could feel him undoing my belt and sliding my pants down. My arms wouldn’t budge as the other two guys held them against the floor.

Passing out would have been a relief; I wish I could forget their hands on my body, forcing me to do things I didn’t want to.

I don’t know how long it lasted, but eventually they left. Everything hurt, I could barely move. Blood was in my mouth, running down my neck but I didn’t think anything was broken. Forcing myself up off the floor, I went to shower, then crawled into bed. I didn’t sleep.

I didn’t want to tell anyone, feeling ashamed, embarrassed. The days had been long, but the nights were longer. I couldn’t sleep, I stopped eating. Water barely stayed down when I tried to swallow it. The other guys in my barrack gave me pitying looks whenever they saw the bruises on my sides and back. They turned purple, then yellow, and faded before I decided I had to leave.

I had to break my contract; I signed up for four years but I’ve completed less than three. Repercussions can come from trying to leave early, but I just couldn’t do another year. There weren’t a lot of options but there had to be something I could do without making this a big deal. Choosing a closed reporting method would keep everything quieter, so I decided that’s what I would try to do. I had the beginning of a plan, so I slept a little that night.

Turns out, that plan wasn’t really necessary.

My commanding officer came up to me the next day, the look on his face not very promising. It’s not true that the higher-ups don’t care, they do.

We talked for a while. He wanted to know what was bothering me. I’d been pretty open before, but now he said I’d closed up, my physical tests were failing, and he could see a change in my attitude. He recommended seeing a specialist on base if I didn’t want to talk about what was bothering me with him.

But I told him. I wasn’t going to, but the fact that he was trying to help, made me spill everything.

It took a few months, but I was discharged. They offered counseling services, but I didn’t want to be on base any longer. I was out and making my way home to Pennsylvania.

Staying with a cousin, I shuffled around Williamsport for a few weeks, unsure of what to do. We were sitting in a diner, my cousin reading the paper while I played with the straw wrapper. Looking up to see the newspaper in her hands, I read the words “sexual assault” in a title. I grabbed the paper with a disgruntled look from my cousin and read the article that had grabbed my attention.

Wise Options at the YWCA helped tons of people who have been through these types of experiences. That’s what the article was about. How they helped and how many. They had to be able to help me too.

With a little bit of hope in my chest, I walked to the YWCA. The advocates helped me in so many ways, and I will forever be thankful to them.

Andrew

I wasn’t the most popular guy in college. On the football team, but not the quarterback. A lot of friends, but I wouldn’t consider myself the king of campus. Good grades, but they weren’t excellent. I was an average 23-year-old male, and I was okay with that.

That’s why I was surprised when she asked me out.

Light brown hair, green eyes, head cheerleader; she was gorgeous. To look at her, you wouldn’t think she was aggressive, persistent, or even manipulative. She just looked…sweet.

I found out that was only the image she wanted people to see.

With no more than four girlfriends and zero sex experience, I was definitely not the most experienced guy. Focusing on my career and trying to get my life on track was more important to me than sex or even relationships.

football jerseyOne night after a football game I was coming out of the locker room. Feeling wiped and ready for bed, I grabbed my car keys and headed towards the parking lot when she ran in front of me. Looking into her eyes, I thought she was angel with pom-poms.

We’d knocked our bags off our shoulders when we collided, so we bent down to make sure we had everything that belonged to us. She smiled and I was infatuated. Before I could say anything, apologize for bumping into her, she asked me on a date. I said yes.

I guess I shouldn’t have.

We were together for three months after that initial meeting. Going on dates, watching movies together in the dorms, studying in the library together. It was fun, we were getting to know each other.

It was one of the last games of the season, a home game. We won by just a few points and the whole team was excited. They wanted me to go out with them to celebrate, but I told them I had the evening booked with my girlfriend.

So, after I showered and changed, I met her in the parking lot, and we walked back to her dorm. It was a cool night, so I put my jacket over her shoulders when she said she was cold.

As soon as we’d dropped our bags on the floor inside her dorm room, she started to kiss me. It took me by surprise, but I wrapped my arms around her while she backed up towards the couch. I pulled her down with me, but I knew something was different from this make out session. She was touching me places she hadn’t touched before and almost forcing her tongue down my throat.

She was laying on top of me, with her hands wrapped around my neck. It was getting too heavy for me, I wasn’t ready to have sex with her, so I tried to push her away gently. Her lips moved down to my neck and I heard her whisper, “C’mon, I know you want it,” as she felt me through my pants.

“No, I don’t want to have sex. I’m okay with a movie, really.” I tried to push her off me again, a little more forcefully and she sat up, her legs on either side of my waist. She thought I was joking, she even said so.

Shaking my head, I looked into her beautiful face that now showed who she really was.

I remember the look on her face when she threatened me, “I’ll tell everyone you’re gay.” I felt my mouth fall open and I was shocked she’d even suggest such a thing. Living in a small town where everyone knew everyone and rumors spread like wildfire, that lie couldn’t be told. So, I closed my mouth and let her do what she wanted.

I was embarrassed after it was over, ashamed because a I let a female overpower me with a threat of a rumor. But I wasn’t sure what else to do. I knew the guys on the football team wouldn’t believe me, they would think I was joking or had some kind of kink.

I wouldn’t tell my parents.

My dad would more than likely laugh in my face and call me crazy for listening to a male scream sexual assault. I could already hear him saying, “Guys don’t get raped by women.”

But I wanted to tell someone. Had to. After three days, I couldn’t take it anymore and Googled “sexual assault hotline.” Wise Options at the YWCA was one of the first results and I noticed they were pretty close in location to me.

When I called, a woman answered the phone, and I was a little hesitant to give her any details for fear that she’d laugh at me. But she didn’t. She sounded like she cared, like she believed me, like she wanted to help me be a survivor. So, I told her everything that happened and that’s exactly what they did.

I’m a survivor of sexual assault thanks to Wise Options.

Clara

When you’re young, your parents dress you. As you get older, you find your own sense of fashion. You also find what things you like, whether it’s books, subjects in school, movies, or people.

I was young when I realized I was into girls instead of guys, maybe 13. My parents didn’t take it too well, but they’ve adjusted since I told them. That was seven years ago and I’m just as sure of my choice now as I was at age 13.

I’ve had a few girlfriends and I’m comfortable in my sexuality. But there’s always someone who looks down on me, who makes fun of me, who makes me feel ashamed. It’s most often men. I felt like a survivor just from the ridicule I received almost daily.

I was at the mall with friends, both girls and guys. We hang out all the time, although the place changes. We’d been sitting around this small table in Auntie Anne’s, talking about nothing. Classes, professors, final projects. We were almost two years into our college career.

Done with our drinks, we headed over to the entertainment store. I headed directly to the music, not caring about where the rest of the group went. They knew where I was going so I knew they would find me.

There were two guys looking at records when I walked over to the music.

I have a thing for vinyl since my dad gave me this retro record player and I was always looking for new music. As I started browsing, I could hear the guys whispering, making dirty comments and suggestions about the girls they saw in the store.

Looking up at them, I didn’t think they looked out of the ordinary. One was wearing black jeans and a band shirt, the other had blue jeans and a plaid shirt on. They didn’t look like troublemakers, or perverts, or college students.

Looks can be deceiving.

They slowly made their way towards the records I was looking through. Not too worried, I kept looking, thinking I found one I wanted.

They got closer, Plaid Shirt bumping gently into my shoulder. Band Tee walked away but the one in the plaid shirt spoke up. We talked about bands for a minute, but then the inevitable came:

“Hey, maybe we can go get some coffee? We could keep talking music. Or if you want, we could go to the movies?” Plaid Shirt asked.

“Sorry, but I’m not into guys,” I said to him. I put the record back down and tried to walk away but Band Tee was behind me, his hands on my shoulders.

denim jacket“Have you ever been with a man? How do you know you’re gay if you’ve never been with one before?” Band Tee whispered in my ear. I could feel the heat of his breath on my neck, he was so close. I flinched away but he held my arms tighter.

Plaid Shirt smirked and said, “I bet I could make you straight.” The glint in his eyes made me regret the skirt I wore that day.

We were towards the back of the store, with shelves placed just so around us that no one could see what was happening., I couldn’t see any cameras on the ceiling, and no one was around. I was scared.

Experiencing it in slow motion, I could see Plaid Shirt’s hands moving forward to touch my thighs. He pushed my skirt up and touched me where I had not given him permission.

Just then, I heard my friends calling my name.

They were getting closer and I wanted to yell out where I was, but Plaid Shirt looked at me and shook his head.

It didn’t matter, though. I saw them come around the corner and the guys in my group rushed the two that had sexually assaulted me. I’d never been so happy to see my friends.

The girls asked if I was okay, but I couldn’t get a single word out of my mouth. I was shaking and tearing up.

“You need to call Wise Options, at the YWCA. They have advocates there that can help you,” one friend said. I nodded my head and looked up their number on my phone right then and there.

Wise Options helped show my strength in being a survivor.

Erica

When you’ve done something a few times, it feels normal. Comfortable. That’s the way it was when I agreed to stay with him that night. I thought I could trust him.

Ben and I had been together for more than a year; we shared family and friends from the same circle. When I was with him, it felt right. We had just celebrated my 34th birthday a few weeks ago. We took turns cooking for one other, going on fun dates, and staying over at each other’s homes. It was comfortable. I felt safe.

Then the night came that changed the course of our relationship, for good.

We both had busy work schedules that prevented much alone time, so a date night-in seemed like the perfect solution. He made dinner for the both of us. It was romantic. He had flowers on the table and some candles lit, along with low lighting. He made my favorite: chicken Parmesan with pasta and garlic bread. We hadn’t had a night like that in a while.

In his company, with no distractions, felt wonderful.

We then settled in for a movie on the couch, one we’d both talked about seeing. Nearly a few minutes in, I passed out with my head rested on his shoulder. It wasn’t the most unusual. We’d fallen asleep like this tons of times.

But this time was different.

I woke up when the credits were rolling; I was groggy and exhausted. Ben whispered that we should go to bed and he half carried me to the bedroom.

sleepwearI changed from my dress into a pajama set, brushed my teeth and crawled into bed. He slid in after me and started rubbing my back and the tops of my thighs. I was too tired for sex and I told him that. He kissed the back of my neck and put his arms around me. Seconds later, I was asleep.

I awoke a few hours later, hearing his stupid ceiling fan rattling above us. I wasn’t worried about the fan coming down, though; instead, I awoke to realize Ben was deep inside me with his hands tugging at my waist.

It wasn’t painful, exactly, but it was uncomfortable because I hadn’t been ready. I specifically said I did not want to have sex and he didn’t listen.

I was frustrated of course, and upset because he hadn’t listened, but I was mainly angry. Shoving away from him, I scrambled off the bed. He looked surprised that I was awake and upset.

Instead of yelling, like I wanted to, I went to the bathroom to change. Gathering my belongings, I left his apartment. Once I got home, I cried. I felt violated and betrayed.

How could someone I know and trust, had begun to love, violate me in such a way?

I spent the next few hours scrambling through my phone trying to decide who I could tell. After all, the person I thought was my biggest support, was the person I should fear.

After deciding that I couldn’t go through this alone, I opened the internet browser on my phone in search of a helpline, a resource, someone or something for help. I found a hotline number for Wise Options, at the YWCA. I quickly remembered that I had a friend in college who utilized their services. They would help me, I knew they would.

And they did. Life now is not the same. I am fearful to date again, afraid to trust. However, I know that I would not have survived this with the grace that I did without the support of my counselor at Wise Options. I know that I am worthy of respect and no one has the right to violate me.

I am a survivor, and this is my story, a story that will not define me.

Adelynn

Birthdays are supposed to be fun. And I guess they are, for the one whose birthday it is.

A bunch of us were going out for a girl friend’s birthday. She was turning 23, I was already 22. We were above the drinking age and we’d decided to check out the new bar in town.

crop top and jeansThere were seven of us in total: four girls and three guys. We walked to the bar since it was close to the school apartments. I wasn’t wearing anything special, just a cute pair of jeans and a crop top sweater with a pair of black flats. None of us were dressed up, except the birthday girl, but dresses were normal for her.

It was after nine when we got there, loud music was starting to play, and people kept coming in through the front door. Being a Saturday, we expected a busy night.

Shots were poured, just to get the party started. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I wanted to celebrate my friend’s birthday the way she wanted to celebrate. Not wanting to ruin her night of fun, I took a shot like the others.

I was the first to head to the dance floor.

It felt wrong to be in a music-blaring bar and not be dancing. Travis, one of the guys, joined me a minute later and then everyone else started trickling onto the dance floor.

Everyone kept dancing to the music and drinks were passed around like it was water. They were so fruity, and I couldn’t even tell there was alcohol in them.

I don’t remember how many I had, just that Travis kept handing them to me. We were all having so much fun. I didn’t want the night to end.

But I wish it would have ended there. It would have been so much easier.

It had to have been well after midnight by the time we left the bar, but I don’t remember leaving. And I don’t remember leaving with my whole group. Travis hadn’t left my side all night, so I assumed he was the good friend who helped me home.

Wrong.

I guess I had too many drinks because the next thing I remember I was laying on a bed with a heavy body on top of me. There was an achiness all throughout my body and I had feeling of wanting to puke. But I remember the pain at my pelvis the most. It was a searing pain that left me wanting to curl in a ball and cry. It was too much pressure, too much everything. I thrashed around, trying to get up, but my arms wouldn’t budge from the hands holding me down.

Warm tears fell down my cheeks as I tried to understand what was happening to me. It was once I turned my head and looked into Travis’s eyes that I knew. And I cried harder.

I knew he was done a few minutes later when the hands on my wrists loosened and released. There was a creak from my bed and a rustling a few feet away from me. The door slammed shut as he left without saying anything.

I tossed and turned the rest of the night, not really sleeping, not finding peace.

When I finally decided to get up in the morning, it was just me in my bed, with a pounding headache and a throbbing ache between my legs. I thought maybe it had been a nightmare; I really hoped it was. But as I threw back the covers and slowly got up, I realized it wasn’t.

I still had my sweater on, but my jeans had been thrown on the floor. My underwear had been pushed to the side and I could clearly see the blood smeared across my underwear and thighs. It was even on my sheets.

I threw my clothes in the trash and jumped in the shower, wanting to scrub everything away. I was tempted to throw the sheets away too, but I put them in the hamper and put fresh ones on the bed. Staring down, I felt…lost.

Someone had taken my body as theirs, without consent. Even in my drunken state, I wouldn’t have said yes. I never liked Travis like that.

My roommates were in the living room, talking about how much fun they had last night. I told them what I remembered, and they were horrified. I didn’t know what to do, but they recommended Wise Options. Said they had a hotline number I could call, and someone would help me. I called and was provided with options that helped me begin to heal.

I don’t know what I would have done had I not been supported by the advocate on the other end of the line.

I’m a survivor because of Wise Options.

MacKayla

swim suit

I was 18 and it was my last summer before going away to college. I was so excited for that Saturday. We were having a family picnic and I was going to be able to see my little cousins. Plus, we were going to be at my grandparents’ house, and they have a pool, which was perfect because it was supposed to be hot.

I put my swimsuit on, just a boring one piece, and slipped a sun dress over it and left a few minutes after my parents.

Everything was going well, seeing my family. The day got warmer as the sun moved in the sky and by 2 o’clock I was ready to swim. The adults were inside, in the air conditioning, while most of the kids were in the front yard, playing with water balloons.

As I made my way through the gate in the backyard, slipping off my flip-flops and sun dress, I’d noticed a friend of my dad’s had followed me. He’d been around so much while I was growing up that I considered him part of the family. He was practically my uncle, and I loved him like one.

That’s what made what he did so much worse.

We said hello, he asked me how I was doing, if I was excited for college to start. I told him I was trying to enjoy my summer in between working my part-time job, but yes, I was excited to start college.

I got into the pool and it was quiet between us for a while. I’d always loved swimming; it was a release of tension for me. After a few laps I could hear the water splashing around the steps, so I knew he was getting in.

Keeping up my laps, I didn’t pay too much mind to where he was. Until I was in the shallow end and he stepped in front of me when I was about to turn.

I laughed and said, “You scared me.”

He smiled down at me, but his eyes were different than what I was used to seeing. They weren’t gentle or friendly. He murmured, “You’ve turned into such a beautiful young woman,” before he tried to kiss me.

His lips had just barely grazed mine when I pushed him away. I could feel my eyebrows pinching in confusion. I didn’t understand what he was doing. As I stared up at him, he wrapped his arms around me and pushed me against the wall of the pool. I tried to duck my head down under the water and swim away, but he pulled me up and pushed me against the wall harder. My back dug into the rough concrete siding.

I couldn’t budge.

I thought about screaming for help, but I knew only the kids would hear me. They didn’t need to see this. As I kept pushing against his chest, asking him to stop and trying to get away, he just kept whispering, “Beautiful” between kisses on my neck.

He pulled the lower part of my swimsuit to the side and when I felt his fingers down there, I panicked. I knew what he was going to do, and I froze.

And he did. It was awful. Painful. I trusted him and he betrayed me by using my body for his pleasure.

He called me a good girl when he was done, straightened my swimsuit and left me in the pool. Tears hadn’t stopped running down my cheeks when he was touching me, but they picked up as he left.

Making my way to a seat on the patio, I just sat and stared at the water until my mom came out to remind me that I had to work. She said I didn’t look well, that maybe I shouldn’t go to work. So, I called in to say I wasn’t feeling well and went home.

I didn’t work for three days, even getting out of bed was difficult.

I was too scared to tell my parents. They liked this man too much, he was my dad’s best friend. They wouldn’t believe me. But I had to tell someone.

The advocates at Wise Options of the YWCA listened to everything I told them, every detail, never once doubting that I was lying or exaggerating. They gave me options and they gave me hope. It wasn’t what I was wearing, it wasn’t my fault at all. It was him. Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault.

I may be a survivor, and I got the help I needed. But I still don’t look at swimming pools like I used to.


Tabitha

tank and shorts outfit

I was 16 when it happened.

I had a boyfriend; we’d been going out for a while and I really liked him. When he asked me to over to his house one day to watch movies, I didn’t even think about saying no. We’d hung out at his house before, so it was just another day.

Only it wasn’t.

I was wearing something so normal, just a white tank top and gym shorts. Nothing fancy, nothing super cute. I felt like it didn’t matter how I dressed around him, I could just be a relaxed version of myself for the day.

I parked my car in his driveway and walked up to the front door. He knew I was there before I knocked. He had a smile on his face when he opened the door and let me in. His mom was home, which happened a lot when we hung out at each other’s houses. I assumed most parents did that. She was on the computer in the den and called out a greeting to me.

He told me sit on the couch while he made popcorn and we decided on a movie theme. We agreed on a scary movie-thon.

He placed the popcorn and soda on the coffee table and went to close the curtains. For better movie viewing, he said. He sat beside me on the couch and hit play. Nothing weird happened through the first movie.

I switched out the movie for another and he exchanged the soda cups for water bottles.

Second Movie

We were maybe 15 minutes into the new movie when he started trailing his fingers up my leg. I didn’t think too much about it at first. I thought it was just a mindless action, so I stayed quiet.

Only he kept getting more aggressive and started digging his fingers into my skin and pushed my shorts down and away. I tried pushing him away with my hand, but he wouldn’t take the hint. Whispering to him to stop, I didn’t want his mom to hear to hear what was going on.

I kind of gave up after that, keeping quiet and feeling ashamed. I never could get up the courage to yell out to his mom.

When he was done, he went back to watching the movie like nothing bad happened.

I couldn’t think about anything but his hands on me and the pain I was feeling, both physically and mentally. When the movie was over, I made up a reason of not feeling well, said I wanted to go home. After a quiet goodbye to him and his mom, I left without another word.

Wise Options Helped Me

It wasn’t until a few days later that I felt comfortable enough to talk to someone about what happened. I reached out to Wise Options and they helped me feel myself again. They helped me understand that it wasn’t my fault and there were different legal options I could take and support groups to attend for sexual assault.

And the best part was they believed me.

I’m a survivor because of Wise Options.


If you need help teaching your kids about consent, watch the video below. Our Prevention and Advocacy Supervisor reads a story written by a sexually assaulted child meant to inform parents and children about sexual assault and consent.

SAAM Reading - Prevention and Advocacy Supervisor reads "Feeling Safe"