Survivor Spotlight: College Campus Sexual Assault

Sexual assault survivor Ti'Air portrait

Ti’Air was happy that someone she met a few years ago reached out to help her through the process of moving to a new university campus, where she was beginning to study for a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. “He was very friendly and helpful. We talked every day,” she says. “But suddenly, he became extremely flirtatious and aggressive.” One night, he invited her to karaoke. He took her back to her home at the end of the night, and when they arrived at her apartment, he raped her.

Although Ti’Air reported her rape to her university and the police, the case did not move forward. She channeled her frustration with this experience into founding a student group on campus. “The reason I started Students Against Rape and Violence (SARA V) was due to the lack of resources I found on my campus to help me cope,” she says. Ti’Air hopes SARA V can be a vehicle of change by educating students about sexual assault and providing a safe space for peers to share their experiences.

Ti’Air says there were a number of challenges she faced after her sexual assault. She had trouble focusing at school, developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and faced harassment from friends of her assailant. Yet, Ti’Air now feels stronger as a result of these obstacles. “In retrospect, these experiences were awful, but they have made my skin thicker.”

Ti’Air now has some tips for dealing with symptoms of PTSD. “To combat nightmares, I’ve found that drinking chamomile tea at night before bed helps me stay asleep,” she says. “If I’m in public and having triggers, I calm myself down and give myself words of affirmation.”

In addition to improved resources for handling sexual assault, Ti’Air wants colleges to provide mandatory education for students on the subject. She likes the idea of interactive workshops that facilitate conversations about sexual violence and consent. “I want to encourage student interaction [to learn] what is okay and what is not okay,” she says.

Ti’Air found many strategies that helped her heal and recover, including going to counseling and spending time with family and friends. “I actually discovered the Lafayette Crisis Center through RAINN's website, and drove over to attend one of their therapy sessions.”

She also emphasizes the importance of not keeping silent. “I find that telling my story is cathartic,” Ti’Air says. As a titleholder in the Miss United States pageant system, Ti’Air is able to encourage other survivors to speak up. “By far, the most rewarding aspect is hearing others come forth with their stories,” she says. “Although I may never see justice myself, it feels great to know that my work may help others see justice.”

“I want every survivor to know that it is not your fault. You are not responsible or guilty for what has happened to you,” she says. “You are worthy of respect and love.”

Bring the conversation about sexual assault prevention to your school this fall: Join the #TalkToRAINN campaign and sign up to receive free coffee sleeves for your campus.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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