`“Somebody forcing you to do something that you do not want to do, and even when you say no, they continue against your will,” is an issue many people face during their collegiate experience and even throughout life (Behrmann, video). Sexual assault is an issue that is very well known and happens more than people realize. In Greek Life, fraternity and sororities obtain a bad reputation when it comes to sexual assault.
There are many people who have their own stories to tell when it comes to sexual assault. I was able to interview Savannah Behrmann, who is a junior at George Mason University, and a member of GMU’s Greek Life. She shared her personal experience of being sexually assaulted and expressed her ways of coping with her experience.
Savannah’s story begins freshman year here at George Mason University, nearing the end of her final semester of the year. She started dating a guy for about a month who was a very big partier and liked to drink a lot, which lived up to the “stereotype” that fraternity men are drinkers and partiers; that this is all they are concerned about. One weekend, Savannah stayed in her dorm because she was not feeling well. She received a text from her boyfriend asking if he could come check on her, and Savannah said yes. When she went down to let him into her freshman-housing dorm, he reeked of alcohol. Knowing the resident advisors were going to come around and do their rounds soon, she let him up to her dorm room, not wanting him to get in trouble. She helped lay him down on her bed, and because she was in the middle of an assignment, did not join him on the bed, and tried to return to the work she had to get done. Instead of letting her go back to her desk to finish up her assignment, he dragged Savannah back to her bed. The boy, who was a mere 5’6 and so drunk that he could barely speak, proceeded to sexually assault her. Though he was small, Savannah could not push him off, and he did not listen to her, “No’s”. He finally stopped when he started to vomit all over her room from being so drunk. When she finally pushed him off her bed she was hysterically crying, and called one of his brothers. The brother came and helped her clean up her room and asked Savannah why she was so upset. But, she didn’t tell him. From the Center of Disease Control and Prevention website, they discuss people who are sexually assaulted receiving immediate and chronic psychological consequences such as shock, denial, fear, confusion, shame, and guilt. Savannah more than likely was going through some of these emotions right after her assault. When they finally finished cleaning up, it was 5:00 AM. She considered calling the ambulance for her boyfriend, because she thought he might have had alcohol poising.
When he awoke the next morning, he asked her where he was and how he had gotten there. When she tried to explain to him what happened, he asked her about the bruising that had started forming around her shoulder. He said that he didn’t mean to do it and that it wasn’t his fault because he was drunk. Drinking is a very social aspect to college, and people don’t truly realize the negative effects of drinking. According to the Health Line Article, drinking and the consumption of alcohol cause many physical and emotional changes to a person and their body. People may not realize it’s an issue until something bad happens, or it is too late. Savannah, at first, accepted what he did and didn’t break up with him. She tried to burry what happened to her in the back on her mind. She figured that if he didn’t remember doing it or was not in the right mind, then it wasn’t sexual assault. It didn’t get to her until she started talking to her Big sister in her sorority about what happened that night, and why she broke up with him for it to really sink in, and for her to understand what had happened to her. She received pressure from her parents, to go to counseling. When Savannah finally came back to school, she started seeing him around more, especially as they were both active in their Greek organizations. She had to start getting past what had happened and start surviving knowing the horrible incident that took place. She went to counseling and talked about what happened to finally realize what happened. She started having night terrors and did not sleep well for a month. She got support from her family, which was hard being an out of state student from Utah because she couldn’t talk to her mom face-to-face, or even hug her because she was so far away. But at school, she got support from her sorority sisters and friends. Savannah sat with an advisor in her sorority and talked to her about her blog. This blog Savannahs made was a way for her to express herself and her feelings through writing. What helped Savannah was talking about it, and realizing that she wasn’t the victim. That even though he was painting her out to be to his group of friends and to his fraternity, that Savannah was not at fault.
When it comes to knowing about sexual assault on campus, its known, but it isn’t an issue everyone really knows much about. Some actions colleges take to inform people about sexual assault can include taking part in Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Or even getting grants to be able to produce prevention programs that help inform kids on the issues of sexual assault. George Mason also has a Student Support and Advocacy Center to help kids who have been affected by sexual assault. People need to start focusing more on how sexual assault is actually an issue that needs to be looked at, so victims in situations similar to Savannah’s won’t feel like they cannot tell anyone.
While talking to Savannah during her interview, she said she knew that sexual assault existed before that it had happened to her. When you come to school, you are told the statistics, and that it is a common occurrence, which is completely heart breaking for somebody who has already gone through it. But not everyone knows about it and how negatively it can impact a person. Savannah said that she could be sitting in a room with a handful of women who have gone through some sort of sexual assault and it wouldn’t even be shocking. Within Greek life she talked about how she knows that for stories like this, fraternity men can get a negative stereotype, but not all-Greek life is like that.
Something that shocked Savannah was that she always thought that if she were ever going to be sexually assaulted, it would have been a stereotypical situation where she would have been the intoxicated one at a party putting herself in a horrible circumstance. Savannah never thought it would be someone she trusted, nonetheless, someone that she was dating. Another shock to Savannah was that it was in her dorm room, and she wasn’t even at a party dressed seductively; she was in pajamas. There are many different kinds of assaults out there. There is not just one form of it, or one situation or environment where it can happen. It is not just the stereotypical fraternity party where it can occur and people assume that you can only be sexually assault if you are at a party, wearing some trashy outfit and getting drunk. This, of course is not an excuse either, but her story truly exposes how it can happen at anytime, and any place. There is no “right” outfit or place for it to occur. People who have been sexually assaulted are usually victim-blamed and that causes people to not want to speak up, and say what happened to them. That usually causes many other issues for the victim. Sexual assault can come in many forms and affect people physically, emotionally, and mentally. Just because it was not at the typical place and typical scenario does not mean that what happened to her was not sexual assault.
After surviving her assault, she has felt so much stronger. Savannah had to go through some horrible affects, like every time she closed her eyes, she would replay the incident over and over again. Or that she had to rely on her new boyfriend at the time to sleep next to her every night, which made her feel horrible. She did not like to depend on someone as Savannah is a very independent girl. But, what makes Savannah stronger now is that she knows now to not get involved with guys who treat women poorly. There are many warning signs that if people started to notice, could help prevent or help someone who has been, or could potentially be, sexually assaulted. People can help prevent sexual assault if they notice that their friends are getting more distant and that the significant other is pushing them away from their support systems. Or people can help if they notice symptoms of when someone is sexually assaulted. When people are sexually assaulted, they start acting out and having bad nightmares, are depressed, can abuse alcohol, etc. If people noticed and were more aware of the signs of sexual assault they could potentially help so many people who could be or are victims of sexual assault. For Savannah, she realized that she was stronger than any incident that happened to her. Savannah feels like now, she can fight for the women who have gone through sexual assault or are going through it now.
To help Savannah digest what happened to her and to tell her loved ones, Savannah made a blog post to not only tell her friends and family but to also help women who are still hiding and are ashamed of what happened. Savannah’s blog helped her express herself and helped tell her loved ones why she was missing for the first part of her sophomore year. Savannah’s message was: victims are not the ones to blame because often, people say that they are the ones to blame, because they put themselves into the situation for it to happen. But you never know it is going to happen until it is happening to you at that very moment. The victim should never be to blame. People make mistakes all the time, and this is not the victim’s fault. People need to stop victim blaming because it’s a large part of why girls that are sexually assaulted don’t want to open up and tell people what happened.
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