Dear Dr. Patti
My name is Elana and i am a sophomore here at University of Florida. Last year, on a Saturday night, my life was completely turned upside down. It started out like any other night, we had a few drinks in the room, then took a cab to a local fraternity party. I had had a lot and knew it was important for me to go back home and lie down to wear off all that i had drank. There were 4 of us girls that took a cab back and on the way back i ended up getting sick. Then after i had, i felt very unstable and my friend Ann helped me back into my dorm. I was too sick to walk up the 1 flight of stairs to my room, and when she asked me if i wanted to walk it i said no, "it's so bad that i cant even walk up the stairs" (back then we used to think of it as the "cool" thing to do to get that drunk). Needless to say, we elevatored it to the 2nd floor where she helped me into pajamas and onto my couch. She then shut the door, walked out and went upstairs to the 5th floor to her room. I remember looking at the door thinking "get up and go lock it" but i was just too tired to do so.
About an hour or so later, someone came into my room and forced himself onto me. I remember trying to move, but his hand was on my arm and i didn't have much coordination so my weak attempt did nothing. i also remember him putting on my boxer shorts and whispering in my ear "thanks for a fun night". Then i remember waking up in the morning wondering why i had no underwear on and thinking of what happened before as only a bad dream. It was only when i looked at the floor and saw a condom wrapper (since i had none in my room and had never seen that brand before) that the thought of my nightmare as a reality came into play. I asked my suite-mate since my roommate was gone if she had had someone over and she said no. It was on the walk back to my room through the bathroom that i noticed how painful it was to walk. I shut the door and saw that i was completely irritated and swollen. All of the sudden it clicked and i realized, i was raped last night. After that i went and got examined where the nurse had said that any doubt in my mind is now gone, she officially said that the only way that i could have been this torn up all the way up was to have been.
Then i filled out a report. Eventually i identified him in a lineup. It took a long process to get to the court date and the night before i started having my nightmares again and was physically sick to my stomach. The thought of facing him made me physically and emotionally sick. The case without my testimony had to be dropped, but i think that it just isn't for everyone. I am now finally this semester starting to move on, but it is not a fast or easy process. I remember thinking that i would be fine in 6 months but here i am over a year and a month later and i still feel not 100%. My nightmares have stopped, but it has changed my life forever. It took me 8 months to be able to sleep in my dorm room before 3 am because i would stare at the door waiting for someone to bust it open and do the same thing all over again. I still have to sleep with the door now locked and rechecked about 3 or 4 times and we have a dresser next to it and pull out at least 2 drawers so that even if they did open the lock, they would hit the drawers and have to move a dresser that is 4 ft. high along with it before getting in. I also have to have a night light on just to make sure i can see things quickly if i wake up in fear.
My social life has also changed. I no longer hang out with my friends whom i was with that night. I also do not go to many parties and never attend fraternity parties. I drink much more in moderation and it has taken me a long time to actually have a good time while drinking and not cry every single time. I am afraid to be with anyone, and have not since this happened, i do not know when i will ever be able to. In addition to this, it was in my school paper and on the news. Hearing everyone talk about "that dumb girl" to me really tore me up inside. They had no idea who i was or that it happened to me and people were talking about it and making me feel as though i was an inch tall and that i had asked for this. My grades went down immensely since this happened (i didn't get out of bed for three weeks) and now worry all the time whether i will get into the program that i want to- physical therapy. I also have many more insecurities with my body and the way i look. I tend to be very hard on myself, and at one point last september i dropped down to a mere 103. i am now at a healthier weight (110) which i was before this happened, but it is a struggle to not want to be the way i used to be. I look behind my shoulder constantly and get anxious in the dark or around people whom i don't know. I am much better now though than i was before this happened. I used to be a very irresponsible college freshman and now i feel i am a responsible well grounded sophomore. This has made me grow up and become more mature, yet sometimes i feel as though i am older than many kids my age (I'm 19). I know that i will keep getting better with this in time, but it has changed me and who i will be for the rest of my life. I hope that my story can warn other college freshman to always keep an eye open and to never let your guard down. Yes the dorms and college life is fun, but not everyone around you is a good person and you need to do all that you can to protect yourself.
Thanks for listening, Elana.
Dr. Patti responds:
Your story is such a gift to so many girls in college. I am guessing you have read my book "Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse". Everything you say is so true. And of course the rape is not your fault. You were not a "dumb girl". You got drunk and went home to bed. Isn't it so sexist that they were not calling the boy a total complete horrible rapist ! You were so amazingly brave to report the crime and then press charges. Not every girl is able to do that, very few in fact. I totally understand that you did not want to go to trial. I talk a lot about that in my book in my date rape chapter. It is sometimes a violation all over again to go to trial.
All your symptoms are normal and I promise you they will not last forever. As you can see you are already feeling better and it has been a year only. I get the feeling you would have matured after your freshman year and you did not need this trauma to mature you. But I am glad that you have walked away from this experience and are taking good care of yourself by being moderate with your drinking. But I have to say you went home in a cab and had your friend bring you to your room... You did take care that evening and who would have thought that some disgusting frat boy rapist would come to your room and rape you! I hope you know that your story will help so many girls to be aware and to be careful. Thank you for sharing and reaching out and helping girls be aware when they get to college. Be well, stay strong, and thank you so much for sharing. I know you have helped many girls going off to college!
................................xoxo, Dr. Patti.