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

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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Staying silent: A rape victim’s story

Sara was no different from any other SMU freshman who wanted to enjoy college life. She rushed a sorority her freshman year. She made many friends and loved Dallas. Jack was someone she saw on campus and knew through mutual friends. By her sophomore year, Sara had settled in, enjoying life at SMU.

In April 2008, Sara decided to spend an evening out with friends. They made the responsible decision to have a designated driver for the evening, Jack. Later that night, Jack dropped off Sara’s friend first. Then he took her home.

Sara remembers having too much to drink and starting to black out. Jack came inside Sara’s apartment uninvited. Sara said Jack raped her.

Sara woke up the next morning with only her shirt on. Jack was beside her. He did not say anything to her. She said she “took at least three burning showers for a few days straight because I just felt so dirty.”

Sara worried about coming forward and reporting the attack to police because of the controversy surrounding a sexual assault reported at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house less then one month earlier. On March 20, a female SMU student reported the attack. Within days, someone posted her name on the Web site JuicyCampus.com. Sara worried the same thing would happen to her, damaging her reputation and causing friends and family to look at her differently.

She decided she would not report the rape to police or any other campus officials.

“In a small community it is hard to come forward because if a name leaks, it looks like I was asking for it,” Sara said. “You are digging your own grave.”

Instead, she tried to pretend all was normal. That was almost impossible. Seeing Jack was the worst. He would wait for her between classes but said nothing. He just stared. Sara had to take a different route to her classes, only to see Jack waiting for her again.

“I had a hard time sleeping,” said Sara. “I didn’t want to sleep in the same room.” She threw away all the bedding and curtains and eventually moved out of the apartment. She kept it to herself because she felt ashamed.

“I became an insomniac and my safe apartment no longer felt safe because everything in my room made me remember. It ruined me,” Sara said. She was so tired she fell asleep during a final exam and never attempted to complete it. After finals, she couldn’t leave Dallas fast enough.

She went home for the summer but still couldn’t put it behind her. “I fought with my dad hoping he would catch the drift, and I wouldn’t have to go back to Dallas,” she said. Her brothers found out about the rape and tried to tell her parents. Her mother and father offered no comfort. Her mother simply could not understand.

Sara’s decision to keep silent about being raped is not unusual.

Karen Click, director of the SMU Women’s Center, says sexual assault is the most under-reported crime on college campuses. According to the U.S. Justice Department, 85 percent of rapes and sexual assaults committed against college students were not reported to police. But many rape victims at SMU have come forward.

Between 2006 and 2008, 21 female students at SMU reported being raped – almost twice the number reported in the three previous years.

For those 21 rapes, SMU issued 13 crime alerts. Only three provided physical descriptions of the attacker. Police Chief Richard Shafer said previously that a description of an alleged rapist would be too generic to be helpful. “Let’s face it, if I give you a description of what I typically get: a white male, 18 to 20 years old, brown hair, blue jeans and a white T-shirt, what’s that going to do? That’s not going to tell you anything,” he said in a 2008 interview.

In fact, the information on crime alerts involving sexual assaults at SMU remains vague at best. With rare exceptions, there is no specific location given, no details about what happened and no follow-up information.

In 2006, 13 women reported being sexually assaulted on the SMU campus, four times the number of rapes reported in 2005. SMU officials said nothing publicly.

According to Click, American society tends to focus on what the victim could have done differently to avoid the situation. “We live in a culture that blames the victim,” Click said.

For months, Sara remained quiet about what happened to her. “I thought I was strong enough to recover, and hesitated reporting this incident because in a small community, someone will throw stones because I was asking for it,” she said.

Sara was still maintaining her silence about the rape when she returned to SMU in the fall of 2008. She wanted to believe she could get over it by dealing with it by herself. She would go to class and focus on graduating.

That changed in the final weeks of the fall semester. Sara learned through a mutual friend that Jack had sexually assaulted another student. The other victim had also decided to keep quiet and not tell police.

“I was infuriated that he had hurt somebody else, and it made me wonder if this predator has assaulted anyone else,” said Sara.

Sara came forward and shared her story with SMU police. In doing so, she felt relieved. “It’s not a big secret I should be ashamed of,” she said.

Sara continues to attend SMU. The self-described life of the party is more reserved and has a few select friends. She is defensive when she meets new people. Sara said she “feels like I can read people.”

Before this incident, Sara had a different view of sexual assault. After hearing of the rape charges against basketball star Kobe Bryant, Sara – like many other Americans – was skeptical about the victim’s story. She thought the victim was “asking for it. Now I know ‘no’ means no.”

“There are probably a lot of girls that have experienced she same thing and are afraid to come out,” she said.

If a sexual assault victim at SMU doesn’t feel comfortable talking to police, other campus officials are available. Click suggests a rape victim try to provide at least some basic information initially to get it on the record. The details can come later. There are, said Click, “so many things you need to recover from, whatever you can tell is important, as little or as many facts.”

Sara has one piece of advice for victims of sexual assault: “Just go report it. Don’t let it happen to someone else when you can stop him.”

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