TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
Before I begin my story, I just want to make it clear that I believe College does offer some fantastic opportunities for its students. However, there is one facet of its culture that I ﬁnd offensive and detrimental. That is the ‘blame the victim’ culture. I attended college for one semester and I can honestly say that it was the most difﬁcult time of my life.
In my ﬁrst few weeks of college, I was chosen to attend an exclusive college party called the ‘bone room’. Being selected for such an event is apparently a huge honour and so I went. Members of every college were chosen and subsequently I didn’t really know anybody else who was attending. Being more of an anxious introverted person, I found the whole situation incredibly uncomfortable and drank to feel more relaxed. I was already drunk before the drinking games at dinner, which I felt obligated to participate in. After this I have virtually no memory. Although I found this horrible, it is not this event that I’m trying to condemn.
Every other person seemed to have an awesome time, and I only found it awful because I don’t enjoy being drunk. The few memories I do have, however, haunted me for years. One of the boys lead me into a room and tried to have sex with me. Despite my drunken protests he kept trying, and I think he actually did for a few seconds before I pushed him off. Being virtually unable to stand I was relying on him to hold me up and as I tried to push him away I fell backwards. And he laughed, asking if I was ‘alright.’ When he led me out into the corridor ﬁlled with people, I pulled away from him and stumbled into the nearest room, collapsing on the couch. When I woke up I was in my college room.
I was still drunk well into the afternoon and I could hardly eat for the next three days without feeling sick. I didn’t tell anyone what happened. I was so embarrassed and felt like I behaved in such a disgraceful and uncontrollable manner. A few days later, I overheard a conversation at college dinner over an article about something similar happening to another girl from College. I found a bit of comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone. One of the girls expressed how awful it was. Another girl agreed, saying how it was awful – awful that the girl was just a drunken slut who couldn’t handle her drinks and was now blaming the college culture so she didn’t have to take responsibility.
After that, things got even worse for me. Even though I have always been a bit of an anxious person, I found it incredibly difﬁcult to leave my room. I would stay in bed all day and eventually be drawn out due to hunger. Being from Victoria, the only immediate family I had was a brother, who would drag me for coffee every couple of days to keep me out of my room.
Uni became impossible. The ever growing pile of uni work heightened my distaste for myself. On top of this I developed chronic depression. I would dream of killing myself everyday. I stopped participating in college life completely. One girl told me that my lack of participation ‘wasn’t good enough’. With the help of my brother, I started going to the USYD health service, and over the next few months, I tried a number of different antidepressants. I also began seeing a psychologist.
Despite all of the support I now had, my symptoms worsened. I began hallucinating. I would hear things crawling across my ﬂoor and typing on my computer. One night I became completely paralysed when something suddenly jumped on me, painfully crushing my body. Absolutely beside myself with panic, I eventually managed to move my body, but as I lifted my arms and legs, they hit an invisible wall. I felt something wrap around my neck and it started chocking me. Suddenly able to lift my arms, I tried to put my hands to my throat, but again they hit an invisible barrier. I was obsessively repeating in my mind that it wasn’t real. Then it stopped. This happened a number of different times over the next few years and I was constantly terriﬁed that it would happen in public.
Because I tried so many different medications, I had 73 tablets. They were all lined up along my desk. I would watch them for hours, contemplating suicide. On several occasions I would go out and drink heavily, then be terriﬁed that I would kill myself if I went home alone. So I would take home boys. This contributed greatly to my self loathing. To dull the psychological pain, I would self harm. Afterwards I would be so scared and embarrassed that people would ﬁnd out.
It was only until I started getting better that I saw the link between my self hatred and some of the ‘blame the victim’ comments that I heard in College. Because of my social anxiety, these comments became representative of how I thought everybody viewed me. When I applied for college, I thought it would be a place to live whilst I studied. However, it is much more like a sorority/fraternity. People become very defensive about their respective colleges and people who speak out against some aspects of its culture are condemned.