Pacific students discuss sexual assault on and off campus, across genders

posted in: Opinion | 0

“How can a woman possibly rape a man?” a woman in her late twenties asked during a conversation. The participants were discussing how students are warned about strangers, even though the majority of sexual assaults and misconduct are committed by someone the survivor knew.

I had an answer; it’d only been given to the campus health adviser, a therapist and select members of my immediate family. I stared the young lady in her eyes and told the story. This version is shortened but essential details will be present.

I was in an off-again, on-again relationship when I was 24. We had broken up within the last two weeks and she had started seeing my roommate and best friend. Attempting to keep my home life civil, I invited her to a laser light show. During the show, she violated my personal space when she tickled me and poked me and refused to stop.

This behavior continued while we were walking across the Hawthorne Bridge. I told her if she tickled me one more time I would tickle her back. She did so I did. She responded by curling up in a ball in front of a police car. I had long hair, full beard and was approximately 240 pounds; she was 5 foot 7 with blonde hair and blue eyes.

The police officer explained to me his desire to teach me a lesson behind his car that was currently stopping traffic. Fifteen minutes into the situation, he stated that when police responded to domestic issues someone always went to jail. I pulled up my shirt and showed him the bruises left by the constant physical barrage.

He did not arrest her. He left. I walked her to a bus stop, went home and went to work the next day. When I returned from work my roommates were not around. As I entered my room, she stepped out from behind my door, blocking my exit. She said she wanted to get back together and tried to initiate sex. I said no.

The incident on the bridge made it clear if I physically pushed past her and someone called the police, I was going to jail. Merely grabbing her by the arms and lifting her out of the way could’ve left bruises, making me guilty of domestic assault. So becoming passive, but still saying no, I was backed on to my bed unmoving and only saying no for the next hour, careful to not physically respond for fear of accidentally marking her. She removed articles of clothing. She touched something that caused an anatomic male excitement, though I was still saying no. She took advantage of the response. Shortly after that I became involved in the act. We were together again. Imagine telling that story to a police officer in 1994 and trying to get her charged.

One in 18 college-age males will be sexually assaulted. Here on the Pacific Forest Grove campus that works out to roughly 40 males. This story was told in front of several people. Two males later recounted similar stories to me because I spoke out in public. In their cases they tried to stop a sexual situation and were told that if they didn’t continue, they would be accused of assault themselves. That’s coercion not consent.

That’s three of the 40 right there. This story is not told to muddy the waters; by the same statistics 270 females on this campus have been or will be assaulted, and that is a heinous thing that must be dealt with.

If you are a college student and something like this has happened to you, where would you go? Who would you talk with?

Survivors of sexual assault, regardless of the perpetrator, are more prone to depression, obesity and vulnerability to repeated incidents, according to the trauma specialists I first spoke with. Sixteen years passed before I discussed it with anybody and it took quite a while to be convinced it was actually a sexual assault.

Pacific students, such as the other 37 men or 270 women, have someone they can speak to: Campus Wellness Coordinator Laura Siltanen, currently located in Suite 125 in Clark. A survivor can speak with her or be referred to a resource that can help them. The counseling center also provides trauma support services. What is discussed in both these places is confidential and protected.

Don’t let societal norms or misplaced beliefs in old wives’ tales keep you from seeking help. Currently in Oregon there is not a support group specifically for male survivors of female perpetrated sexual assault. The same could be said of the other survivor support groups that currently function.

Telling the story once brought out two survivors’ tales. Potentially, if more survivors speak to their experience, more support will become available.


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