This guest column was written by Allison Allred, a Utah State student recently sourced in Alison Berg’s breaking news coverage of the Department of Justice’s investigation into Utah State’s Title IX practices.
The feeling of being a freshman in college is a feeling many experience only once in their life. Walking into your first lecture class, full of 500 underclassmen who are just as anxious as you. Showing up to Day on the Quad, trying to sift through all the tables to find some club or organization that seems interesting. For me, I took an immediate interest in sorority life. The girls were (and continue to be) welcoming, kind, and ready to help me find my place here at Utah State. But prior to meeting the women who would become my sisters, I met a boy. This boy was the first upperclassman to show me any kind of attention the first week of school, and naturally, I was excited. He was in a fraternity, and asked me if I considered rushing. I said I had, and his influence ultimately led me to making the decision to rush.
Please note — I do not include information about fraternity and sorority life to paint the organizations and members in a negative light. But in order to tell my story accurately, this information needs to be included.
I went through rush week, and had the time of my life up until the final day of recruitment week known as Bid Day. I was thrilled to have received a bid, and I couldn’t wait to spend more time with my new friends. That is, until this boy contacted me. He was having a party off campus, and invited me to come along. I knew no one there except for him, and it was very late at night when I finally set out to this apartment. Immediately upon entering the party, I felt an odd feeling come over me. But I went in anyways. Ultimately, this boy that I had a crush on, this boy who got me excited about joining a sorority, sexually assaulted me. Luckily, my cell phone rang at just the right moment and my roommate on the other line gave me a reason to leave.
Had her phone call not happened at that exact moment, had my phone been on silent, had she called another roommate, who knows what else could have happened.
I am choosing to tell my story today because I want those of you who have experienced sexual assault or who will, very unfortunately, experience sexual assault to know that you are not alone. In the weeks after my assault, I felt alone, scared, worried. My mind was constantly occupied with what I was going to do next, how I could proceed, and what people would think. And all those negative feelings stemmed from trying to take the healing process on all alone. Little did I know at the time, I had a group of women who were there to support me through the whole process, I had on campus resources, like SAAVI, who were there to help me by giving me information.
However, though the on-campus individuals handling my case were trying to be helpful, I often found myself frustrated and exhausted by the process. I chose to take University Action against my attacker, which led to me attending meeting after meeting, and telling my story repeatedly. This was an exhausting process on its own. And became even more frustrating and humiliating compounded by the fact that the University couldn’t take any action against my assailant because he wasn’t enrolled in classes at the time — he did re-enroll in the Spring, and faced no punishment from the University upon his return to school.
I understand that when you are sexually assaulted, the event itself and often the process afterwards is terrifying and humiliating. As a freshman last year, all I would have wanted to know was that I was not alone in my struggle. This time of year is known as the “Red Zone”. During this time from the beginning of school to Thanksgiving, sexual assaults and rapes are much more prevalent than other times of the year. We need to be vigilant. one in three college-age women will experience sexual assault — 15,032 women are enrolled at USU. That means, statistically, about 5,010 will be the victims of sexual assault. We need to change this. Don’t go out alone. Always let people know where you’re going. Follow your instincts. If you feel that a situation is bad, leave. And above all, know that you are not alone in your struggle. There are women and men out there just like you and me who experience this every day. I was one of those women. And I want you to know that I am here to help.
Please feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to help in any way I can.