Tasha's Story

"I may have experienced this, but it does not define who I am."

Tasha Wilson was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance on her college campus. After the assault, the perpetrator stalked Tasha and showed up places he thought she might be in an attempt to intimidate her and ensure that she did not tell anyone. She did not feel comfortable reporting the assault to campus administration because she had heard about other students’ negative experiences in doing so.

“It didn’t feel like a welcoming or safe environment to disclose. I didn’t know if there were even resources available.”

After noticing that Tasha seemed distant and anxious, her best friend and roommate at the time asked about it, and Tasha told her what happened. At first she felt shocked, and then angry. “She kept saying she wanted to get back at the person who did this to me. But I told her I just needed her to be my friend. She respected that and said she would be there for me whenever I was ready.”

Tasha told her mom next, who reacted by feeling responsible for what happened to her daughter. “She felt like there must have been something she didn’t do or say to help keep me safe. She never imagined something like this would happen to her child.” Though it was a difficult conversation to have, Tasha is glad that she told her mom and has had her love and support. Tasha’s older brother felt upset and hurt when he received the news, but he was still able to act supportive in a way that was helpful.

“The best way to support someone is to just listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to justify or relate. Don’t tell us you know how we’re feeling. Don’t give advice on how we should cope with it. And don’t be angry—I’m already angry enough.”

 

Because of the assault, Tasha has experienced anxiety, panic attacks, PTSDdepression, and difficulty trusting and forming relationships with others. For a long time after the assault, Tasha would find herself hyper aware of her surroundings and fearful of going places alone. She also continues to feel very aware of and bothered by her boundaries being pushed, such as when a friend asks for a favor multiple times after Tasha has already said no. “It makes me anxious because it reminds me of the assault—of my ‘no’ being ignored. I just take a breath, gather my thoughts, and explain to that person why what they did was particularly difficult for me.” 

At first Tasha didn’t want to attend support groups or counseling because she was worried that she would be judged or blamed for what happened to her. But when she finally did attend a group for sexual assault survivors, she actually found it helpful to talk with others who’d had similar experiences. 

Because of her experience not feeling supported or aware of any resources for survivors on her campus, Tasha has developed a passion for ensuring that students are able get the help they need. That’s why she chose to work on a college campus as an advocate for students—so they will never feel alone in the way that she did. “At first it was difficult for me to hear their stories because it would remind me of what happened to me, but I am at a place in my healing now where I can truly advocate for them.” 

In order for campuses to be environments where students feel they can get the help they need if something does happen, Tasha says that resources have to be both visible and accessible. “For instance, if a campus claims to have a late-night security escort back to residence halls from the library, it has to be a reliable and functional service.’ She also recommends that at high-risk times of the school year, such as the beginning of the year or when students come back from breaks, campus administration should emphasize resources that are available to students, such as counseling services and the Title IX office. 

“We have to make sure that students know where to go if they want to disclose, and we have to tell them what the process will look like and what our role will be as administration. As advocates for students, we should take all reports seriously.” In addition to advocacy, Tasha has found supportive people in her life, her faith, and journaling to be important parts of her self care and healing process. “It was hard for me to talk about it for a long time, so I kept a journal in my purse and would write my thoughts and feelings down when they came to me. It was great being able to freely express myself.” 

Tasha is the founder of a community- based empowerment group for survivors of trauma. “I encourage people to affirm the treasure that’s within and not conform to the labels others give them.” She has also recently published a book that provides advice and strategies for healing from past trauma. 

“Don’t just promote awareness for sexual assault awareness and prevention month in April, this is something that should continue all year around.”

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