The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Stop the shame behind rape

By Katrina Leshan

I am a survivor of rape. I am telling my story to inspire awareness and add to the collective strength of rape survivors like me.

I was raped multiple times on March 3-4, 2012 by someone I knew at SMU and had to see every day until I graduated. The day after he raped me, he said it was something “we” did and that “nobody could ever find out.” I believed it was my fault. For many reasons – like knowing he was engaged and is now married – I didn’t tell anyone. I buried it for over a year, and two weeks before my senior recital the reality of my experience hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized I was not responsible for the crime that was committed against me. I was dysfunctional for a couple of days, but buried the truth again to give my recital and graduate.

Days after graduation, I began to feel hopeless, panicked, depressed and infuriated. How did I let this happen, then smile at him in the hallway at school every day? Worse than the physical act of the rape was the knowledge that this person manipulated me. For over a year, he knew he had raped me, and I didn’t.

The summer before I moved to Rochester, New York for graduate school was filled with panic attacks and anxiety. When I moved, I fell apart. Having to trust new people and put myself out there as a musician was impossible. Rochester doesn’t exude a feeling of safety, and every time I had to get on the bus or walk to school around threatening men, I would have panic attacks, get nauseous and dizzy, and break down. I barely went to class my first semester. I didn’t socialize. I didn’t practice. I had and still have painful, vivid nightmares every night of being raped.

I started seeing a therapist. Things got better, but what helped the most was running.

I started running when it was 7 degrees outside. My friend Sumner talked me into running 5 miles. I felt PROUD of myself. For the first time in almost a year, I felt OKAY.

So I kept running. Through blizzards, through unfamiliar neighborhoods, I reclaimed pieces of myself. Each time my foot touched the pavement, I declared my health, sanity, and strength. I continued to go to therapy and work to be OKAY. I started going to class and getting out of bed in the morning to run. I had my heart back.

Running my first half marathon was the beginning of healing for me, but hasn’t been easy since. This summer I was without my therapist, and I fell into a depression. I spent time in Chicago, where I felt dark and heavy and contemplated throwing myself into the lake. Twice I walked to the lake, stared at it and thought, “If I hurt myself, everyone will see on the outside what I am inside.”

I visited LaSalle Street Church on my last Sunday in Chicago, and learned about the work that World Vision does in third world countries. When women no longer have to walk 6 hours daily to water, rape and assault numbers go down. My purpose was revealed that day: I can use my ability to run to help people who have suffered rape like me.

I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon through World Vision. Every mile I have logged since then has found me stronger and more committed to helping heal myself and people I will never meet. So far we have raised almost $2,000 to change people’s lives.

I am telling my story because:

1) My rape was NOT my fault, is NOT my burden, and is NOT a reason to feel sorry for me. Yes, it has been horrible to recover from, but I am still recovering.

2) Every woman has the right to claim her own story. The only person who needs to feel ashamed and guilty for my rape is the person who did it. To anyone else who has suffered: PEOPLE WANT TO HELP YOU. Do not be afraid. You are stronger than your circumstances.

3) I hope that people who read this story will remember it. I hope that women who have faced similar circumstances will see what I am doing and feel empowered.

4) If my story has moved you, please consider donating to my cause. Give the gift of clean water to women who are suffering.

The shame regarding rape needs to end. I am done being ashamed. Thank you for reading this, because you are helping to set me free.

Leshan graduated from SMU in May 2013. She is now a Masters student at University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.

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