Dear College

Dear College,

My first two years at school, I partied far more than I’d like to admit, I made pitifully average grades, and I struggled emotionally. My last two years, I had matured significantly, I made increasingly excellent grades, I sought counseling (however unsuccessfully), I worked a part time job, and I found my calling in education. 

I also finally talked with my parents about the assault. 

My very first week at your school, I was sexually assaulted by a fraternity boy, and that introduction to a social life at College colored my entire four year experience. College came with many sweet friendships, growth experiences, a variety of adults that held influence over future choices, and an opportunity for personal maturity and growth. And yet. 

My junior year, I finally went to the counseling center on campus to talk with a therapist about dealing with the lingering emotional turmoil surrounding the event. I wanted to go home to talk with my parents, but I was nervous.  I asked the school therapist for help in sorting through the mixture of emotions I didn’t know how to process. Joining a sorority, being popular, weekends full of parties, and flirting with college boys had only exacerbated the deeper yearning to be “fine” that was secretly driving my destructive behaviors. Yet telling my parents that I had been assaulted meant explaining that I had been out drinking heavily. It meant admitting choices I knew to be negative and in direct conflict with how I had been raised to think and behave. It meant admitting that for two years, I had hidden my secret instead of seeking help. I did not want to have that conversation, but I knew I must have that conversation. The therapist (your therapist) asked if I really needed to talk with my parents and implied that maybe I should deal with the incident myself. 

Did I really even need counseling? 

I hadn’t been raped, per se, so wasn’t I being a bit overly dramatic or creating more chaos than necessary?

Maybe – Was I just afraid of being on my own in the world and searching for attention? 

Thankfully, I’ve never been the best at following directions. Ignoring the ridiculous advice of that therapist (your therapist), I went home to have a heart to heart with my parents anyway. Simply being open with them gave me the confidence to turn my college experience around. My final semester, I finally received a 4.0.

So, I guess what I want to say is…

Dear College,

Talk about assault. 

Talk about safety. Talk about bullies and victims. Keep your doors open to those students that need to walk through them to you. Listen when girls misbehave in ways that point to trauma. Talk about trauma. Listen to boys that misbehave in ways that point to trauma. Talk about trauma. Talk about brain changes and PTSD and pregnancy and abortion and drugs and drinking and the next day. 

Talk about the walk of shame. (Surely by now we all know what I’m referring to. But why is it the victim seems to get the honors? Talk about that.)

Talk about The Next Day

Then. Talk about grace and redemption and love and support and also. 

Listen. 

Listen for signs of hopelessness and guilt and shame and confusion and sadness and anger and humor. Listen for the self deprecating humor. Listen for the covering up of the vulnerable. 

Talk about suicide and second chances. Talk about religion. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Buddha. Talk about death and nothingness and family and friends and dorm life. Talk about showering. Talk about showering on The Day After. Talk about sex. Talk about love and lust and kissing. Talk about dating. Talk about sweatpants and yoga pants. Talk about failure. Talk about money, and stress, and those freaking Joneses. Talk about bodies. Talk about being in a melting pot of a bajillion people the same age and how the real world is not like a college campus. Talk about homesickness. Talk about mommas. And dads. And little siblings. Talk about the loneliness in the midst of a campus full of people. Talk about grades too. Talk about taking each day one step at a time. One teeth brushing victory at…. A…. Damn…. Time.

Then. Talk about grace and redemption and love and support and also.

Listen. 

Because.

I guarantee I am not alone in my journey on your campus. I have written this letter over and over and over in my mind for twenty five years, and it never comes out eloquently. But. Listen still. 

Dear College, 

Listen.

Talk about assault.

Sincerely,

Your graduate and a Boy Mom of a rising College freshman