Survivor’s Guilt

Trigger Warning: This blog post contains information regarding sexual assault and self harm.

About three weeks ago, someone told me that she felt angry hearing me talk about my sexual assault story because she was working through her own experience with rape. She felt my assault was “just a boy kissing me when I was sad and being a dick afterward.” I told her that I understood her feelings, but she could never say that to me again. She ended that conversation by telling me she needed a break from our friendship. I haven’t said anything to her since then.

I was assaulted in 10th grade, during a time in my life when I was desperate for attention and afraid of my own mental illness. In fact, I had just cut myself and my friend invited me over to his house to get homework done. Halfway through, he started awkwardly making me slow dance with him. Every time I told him we were supposed to be doing homework, he would look at me and whisper, “I am studying.”

He put on the movie Pirates of the Caribbean because I had never seen it. He started kissing me. He took off my glasses and told me that if I was uncomfortable to tell him and he would stop. I nodded. The entire situation made me uncomfortable, but someone wanted me and I was so desperate for attention that I couldn’t risk saying no. He shoved his hand down my pants, and then I told him no. He stopped. He straddled me against his middle and shoved my back against a pole in his basement. I was stuck there and he shoved his hand down again. I had already put forth so much effort saying no once that I let him feel around until he was satisfied. Afterward he told me that I couldn’t tell anyone.

It took me three years to realize that what he did wasn’t okay. It took me another year to come to terms with the fact that it was sexual assault. It became a reality when he did the same thing and worse to one of my close friends. It wasn’t rape, and I know that. But that doesn’t make the effects it has had on my life any less prevalent. The furthest I’ve ever gone sexually was when I was assaulted. I can’t go further without feeling him on me. That being said, there is guilt I feel for asking for support when I didn’t experience rape. It has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with my own feelings. The most effective thing I found was peer support. Surrounding myself with other people who had similar experiences allowed me to voice my story and gain insight to the full extent of what happened.

Since realizing my experience in high school was assault, I have been actively supporting campus programs and organizations that deal with sexual assault. I became a part of Students for Survivors and have been advocating for more support on campus. I wanted to turn the experience with my friend into activism, but I didn’t know how. The importance of a terrible situation is turning it around and making a change. Creating change is an exceptionally difficult concept to grasp, let alone master. Every time something like this happens, I ask myself, what steps can I take to enact change? What specifically am I trying to change? How do I stop people from feeling the way I feel? What is the most effective way to do that?

The change I wanted to make was for people like me; people who had been assaulted and struggled with guilt for their trauma when it wasn’t rape. The way I wanted to help was through educating my peers on how to respond to assault, and how to support each other rather than invalidate each other. If we take away each other’s experiences, positive change can never happen.

In this situation, activism was working through invalidation in order to write this blog post. Forcing myself to articulate everything I was feeling was the best way for me to make a difference in my life and in lives around me. It’s hard to be an activist when people invalidate your experience, but that’s when it’s most important. Standing up for yourself and others to educate intolerant or ignorant people is how positive change happens, but it’s easier said than done. It’s not always as simple as telling someone that their experience is valid. It’s not easy when you feel threatened by the people around you.

Being an activist is tiring. Being an activist for issues that directly affect you is particularly tiring because you also have to balance taking care of yourself within that space. In the vein of advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, change can be even harder because the line of trauma is harder to define. In other issues there is a clear line of privilege that can be quantified. Sexual assault is very much defined by the survivor. My personal experience makes me want to make change, but everyone has to define what they want to do for themselves and for their own self-care.

My own experience has helped me to compile a list of the best ways to support survivors as a friend and also for yourself:

  1. Validation: No part of trauma is too small. If it hurt you, it’s important and part of trauma.

Self-validation is harder than peer-validation. It’s easy to tell someone you care about that the things that hurt them are a part of their trauma. It’s a lot harder to tell yourself that feeling violated and hurt is okay. I have struggled a lot with personal validation of my experience because it wasn’t rape. I know that it hurt me and I can see the effects it has in every aspect of my life. Unfortunately, I struggle with feeling like I don’t have a space in sexual assault discussions because my experience ‘wasn’t as bad.’ The thing that keeps me there and keeps me fighting for change are my peers who tell me that it was valid and that I will always have a space. As a survivor, find those spaces where you are accepted no matter what the degree of trauma, and offer the support you wish to receive.

  1. Listen: Listen to the survivor. Let them tell their own story on their own time. Don’t interject or say anything, just listen.

By the time I understood that I had been assaulted, most of my close friends knew what happened. I just needed to admit to myself what it was. I don’t have trouble telling my story because it was five years ago and telling people is how I ask them to understand an important aspect of my life. Not everyone is ready for that, especially when it is something recent. Everyone needs their own time to tell their survivor story. If/when they open up, give them the time to speak. Offer support through physical presence rather than words. When they are done, ask what support they need.

  1. Ask how they need to be supported

Asking how they need support is something I have learned from my friends who asked me what I needed for support. It wasn’t something I realized was so important, or felt so validating.

It can be hard to know how you need to be supported. Getting asked that question forces the person to think. Do I need someone to listen? Do I need constructive advice? Do I need validation? Getting asked, “how can I best support you?” was the most incredible thing because it put the power back in my hands. Power is something that is frequently taken away from survivors, so allowing them to have that back, even in the smallest way, is important.

  1. Provide Resources

There are lots of resources for survivors of assault; the trouble is knowing where they are when you need them. At University of Cincinnati there are several resources for student support.

CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services): CAPS is a great source for anyone struggling with mental illness. They offer free group therapy sessions for UC students and group therapy for sexual assault survivors called Hope and Healing. Unfortunately, they only offer 10 personal sessions for students per year. This can be less helpful to some students who need more support than 10 personal sessions. However, if you have experienced sexual assault on campus you can ask for extenuating circumstances that allow you as much as you need. They also have a 24-hour crisis support helpline. To see their other services, you can go here:

Women Helping Women: They “provides crisis intervention and support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in Hamilton County”. They offer a 24-hour crisis hotline, accompaniment for survivors to hospitals and emergency rooms, court of law advocacy, support groups, and more. They are a great resource for people in Cincinnati specifically. There are also full-time advocates housed on UC’s campus in the Steger Student Life Center, room 559 .To find out more, visit:

The Women’s Center: The Women’s Center offers many resources for survivors of sexual assault. The people there are a great resource for support, and knowledge. One important thing to note is that the staff are mandatory reporters, so if you confide in them they are required to report it to Title IX. This can be beneficial in some instances, but it could also be a challenge if a survivor is not ready to come forward. For more information on their sexual assault resources, visit:

Students for Survivors: Students for Survivors is a new program started by survivors of sexual assault on UC’s campus. While they are a fairly new organization, the two women leading the cause know more about advocacy and support on campus than anyone I have ever seen. For more information, visit: or find them on Facebook at:

  1. Don’t push, but stress that you’re there for them

You can’t push or force the survivor to do anything. Be there and offer support, but recognize that the end result is ultimately up to the person.

If someone opens up to you about assault or rape, offer them resources. Unless the survivor is in immediate danger, let them report it. It’s important to let the survivor have the power of reporting, because power is so often taken away from survivors that letting them have it back in any way is helpful. The exception to that is when someone is in immediate danger.

All of these points are helpful from my own experience, and I am in no way a trained professional. There are more resources than the ones I listed to give you professional help and support. If you are experiencing sexual assault or violence, do not hesitate to go to the resources I offered, or to the Women’s Center to get a more extensive list. You are not alone in this.

Julia Draznin is a 2nd year Entrepreneurship & Marketing student and a 1st year WILLer



Fighting for what is right…but what is right?

Knowing that the week before my blog post was due would be extremely hectic, I tried to write down some thoughts a few weeks early to make sure I had a post done on time. I wrote about losing in the student body election, calling out Student Government for spending $11,000 on a retreat, struggling with balancing classes with other involvement, and adopting a kitten. Looking back, I saw my words were filled with a lot of raw emotions: anger, excitement, sadness, anxiousness, among others. Here’s some of the memorable lines:

“I’ve got a lot of feedback from student leaders on this campus, and someone told me that, in light of losing the student government election last spring, it makes me look jaded. Luckily, green is my color.”

“One person called this issue ‘hullabaloo’. Not only is this arrogant and dismissive, it highlights the narrow-mindedness of a distinct group of student leaders on our campus.”

“You can’t choose when you’re inclusive. Plain and simple.”

“Don’t call me a hater for pointing out your responsibilities, transgressions, and mismanagement.”

Those are all sentiments I still strongly believe, but I think I’ve grown emotionally since I wrote those thoughts down. At that time, I was sick of being appeased and being treated like my viewpoint wasn’t valid. I was tired of feeling like an outsider, and I wrote from a place of hurt. Moreover, I was just feeling tired in general. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was snapping at people I loved, and I was focusing more on my feelings than the issues itself. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to create any type of change if I wasn’t grounding myself in what I believed in and thinking about my “why”. It was a chance for me to reflect on why I react the way I do, and how I could channel this energy into creating change.

The first time I was told that my friends and I [who were critiquing student government] were being petty, I snapped. I was angry. How dare anyone think that we are being petty when we are speaking the truth??

The second time, I stopped and listened. I didn’t take that “petty” label and stick it on me, but I listened to why it was being seen as such. Even if I didn’t agree with the reasoning, it was an opportunity to see someone else’s perspective and hear why they reacted the way that they did.

I see my friends and inspirations fighting for systemic changes in the work that they do, but the reasoning of people against those changes are much clearer to me. We stand for what we stand for because it’s what we believe is right. They stand for what they stand for because that’s what they think is right. But it’s not all completely us vs. them, is it? After all, we have to share some values and beliefs about something that give us the opportunity to relate or unite. But is that enough to change someone’s mind to see things your way?

Here’s an example: in our current model, the students who have the most access to leadership opportunities are a reflection of who in society has privilege and opportunity to gain power. I believe that in order to move towards a more just and equitable world, people of marginalized identities must hold these positions of power themselves, not just people who are aware of their experiences and struggles. When I proudly considered myself a “student leader”, I believed that I was contributing to creating changes, and I would take any criticism of the organizations I was involved in extremely personally, as if I was an extension of the organization itself. Now, not being involved, it’s easy for me to be critical of those same organizations that I once loved, but those who are still involved still have their rose-colored lenses on.

Reflecting on how I used to think compared to how I think now made me realize that we are all at different stages of our personal growth and social awareness and sometimes it is important to approach these conversations with respect and kindness. At the same time, these emotions can be rooted in oppression, and it would be tone-policing to tell someone to change the way they share their thoughts just to make yourself more comfortable. It’s a matter of meeting in the middle and acknowledging that nobody is 100% right all the time.

Sometime during the summer, this video of a former CIA agent was being shared all over social media. I love this one because the message is simple: everyone thinks what they’re doing is what is right. Whether that’s for them, or towards others, or what they’re doing with their power to affect change, everyone is doing what they believe will be the best for whoever is involved.

Last week, WILL had the opportunity to listen to Gloria Steinem speak. Listening to her was surreal and powerful, and she shared a message of empathy and validating one another’s truths. Most importantly, she stressed that when we don’t know, we must listen. Her words were a reminder of what I wanted my feminism to be: intersectional, validating, and kind. And that means it has to be self-validating too. It means allowing myself to believe that I am right, even and especially when people in power are against it. It means uniting people who share my values and reminding them that the work that they are doing is necessary and good. But it also means listening to those who I disagree with and acknowledging these differences as just one part of their whole self.

WILL has become a space to practice what I believe. It has granted me the space to be raggedy, vent my heart out, and figure out how to make my feminism more inclusive. It has taught me to challenge the status quo. It’s also empowered me to stand for what I believe to be right, and reflect on if I am being congruent in my thoughts and actions. Moreover, my peers challenge me and force me to question the problematic behaviors and assumptions that are socialized within all of us.

What I’ve realized is that there’s no best way to get people to understand what you stand for. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to figure out what works best for you, and so long as you aren’t disrupting my safety and well-being, I have no room to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Find what works best for you in challenging injustice, find ways to practice self-care, and find people who support you and challenge you. More than anything, always fight for what you believe in and for what will make the world a more just and equitable place.

Akshayaa Venkatakrishnan is a 4th year Neuroscience student and a 2nd year WILLer


Needing Help Is Not A Weakness… It Made Me Stronger

I have never been someone to ask for help. I like to figure things out on my own, to be independent. I also got anxious when asking for help, I felt like some people may look down on me for needing that help, that I was weak or incapable. Then in my second year college, that changed.

There I lay in my 2nd year college dorm room, before the start of the fall semester. I was alone. I knew I wasn’t technically alone, I could call any of my family members, friends, but I was physically alone. None of my roommates had moved in yet and campus was still pretty empty. The place that I had longed for over the summer seemed dead. “Just get through this week…” I kept reminding myself. “You’re only alone for a week and then people will be here and you won’t have to sit in your room all day.”

Being alone with my thoughts was tearing me apart. I had just gone through a break up that summer. Even though I knew in my heart I didn’t miss him, it wasn’t a healthy relationship, I still wanted that companionship that I had when we were together. But I couldn’t, I sat in my room and sobbed multiple times a day, calling my mom every time I needed someone’s words to flow through my head other than my own. She would calm me but she couldn’t stay on the phone all day. I was scared I was going to be alone the rest of the year, no boyfriend, my friends too busy, my family far away. Even though I knew this wasn’t true and I was over reacting I couldn’t keep these terrifying thoughts out of my head

I started feeling sick to my stomach, not an uncommon occurrence for me. I could usually just eat small amounts for a day or two and it would go away. This time it didn’t go away. I couldn’t keep food in my system for more than an hour or two, I was repulsed by most foods, and the dining hall was a walk away but I began feeling weaker.

My mom was worried about my health so she asked me to make an appointment at the clinic on campus. I went and had blood tests, gave a urine sample for more tests, the doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. Anxiety was something I knew I suffered from but had never been diagnosed by a physician and had never been treated. She prescribed me an antidepressant for both the anxiety and depression. I started to feel much better that day, like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

The next morning I woke up in a state of extreme nausea causing me to run to the bathroom. I called my mother again, sobbing, “I thought it was over, I thought I was better.” She took the day off of work and drove three hours to Cincinnati because she was scared for me. She was scared I’d end up in the hospital. I hadn’t eaten anything in 4 days, water and Gatorade repulsed me, and I had lost over eight pounds.

She stayed the night that night and I was doing better, however, the next morning I was still so sick I couldn’t do anything, I could barely move. She decided then that she was moving me back home, and after a lot of tears and calming down, we started to pack my stuff up and left for home.

Within a week back home I had been able to eat three meals a day again, stay hydrated and started putting on the weight I had lost. I was still super exhausted but was slowly regaining strength. I was visiting friends and spending the time with my family that I really and truly needed. I got a job and signed up for online classes. I wanted to be able to return to UC in the spring. Not long after, many people showed me an outpouring of love. They supported my decision, one of my friends even said that she admired me for taking a step back and asking for help when I needed it most. This was exactly the affirmation I needed.

I met with my doctor frequently so my medication could be monitored and she started me on medication for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) that was the cause of my illness during my anxious and depressed state. I started feeling better than I had ever felt before. Though the medication didn’t start right away, I could see a true difference when I would go to do something, like driving, that used would have me sweating, heart beating out of my chest, sick to my stomach; I didn’t get those feelings anymore.

Other than medication, I coped with these disorders by writing more, getting out of the house on a daily basis, performing with my old dance group, going on morning runs, and spending time with the people who I needed to be around.

In October I went on a cruise, something I would’ve had to prepare myself for month in advance in the past was something that felt so fun and adventurous now. I started dating again, a thing I feared in the past made me excited. I got a tattoo. I went on a plane for the first time (by myself) and also rode a Greyhound (by myself). I am also now preparing for another trip over spring break. These things that I couldn’t have done in the past with some major preparation, and I can now do much ease.

I am back at UC as a full-time student, I am working part-time through the university, and I am still very involved with many student organizations. I am looking for internship opportunities and growing in my leadership roles. I don’t think I would be in any of these places today if I hadn’t taken the time to myself to heal.

I am happiest than I have ever been. I am healthy. I am in a loving new relationship with some-one who values me for who I am as a person. Most importantly, I am grateful, for the people who stood by me, even when I felt so alone, for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me, and for myself, because I finally took care of me for once. I learned in this experience that it is okay to ask for help when you need it, that needing help isn’t a sign of weakness. I learned that I am a strong person, and most importantly I learned that I am worthy of caring for myself.



Madison Landkrohn is a 2nd year Psychology student and a 1st year WILLer.

Closing a Chapter

As I am starting the process of submitting my applications for law school and looking towards the next chapter of my life, I’ve reflected on my experiences over the last four years at the place I called my second home—the University of Cincinnati. After much reflection, I am sad to come to the realization that the place that I was drawn to four years ago is not the same anymore. Although I have seen the university make general strides towards bettering itself, I have not seen enough progress towards supporting students who do not fall within the category of

I have seen resources on campus that students utilize and appreciate be swept from under them without even hearing out what the students want. The most recent examples of this are: the elimination of RECLAIM (and the implementation of its makeshift replacements), many words and little follow-through in regards to suggestions from the IRATE 8, and an unsupportive environment for students advocating for change.

But seeing this change of atmosphere during my last year at UC has left me with mixed emotions. My heart goes out to faculty and staff members who know students the best, yet they can only say so much as to not “cross the line.” I’ve learned that politics is everything and everywhere. I am disheartened that I must leave the university in this state, but know that the next generation of students will fight for their beliefs in this institution as well.

Although I am moving on to my next chapter in life, I hope that I can take lessons learned from my years here at UC and use them to navigate my future. I will always call this university my alma mater, but I will never hesitate to call out the truth in support of what students need and want of their university.


Tyra Robinson is a 1st year WILLer, Graduating Senior majoring in Communication, and plans to attend law school in the Fall of 2016.

When Self-Care Is Not an Option

This semester, I’m taking 18 credit hours, working on my senior capstone, running two different groups as co-president, working on a campaign, looking for jobs after graduation, and doing my best to be an active member of WILL. I’m very fortunate that my partner Robyn is working two jobs at 70 hours a week so that I can focus on my studies, but my lack of a job has left me broke and with no income of my own, and with nothing in savings. I’ve also been dealing with a debilitating leg injury for the past month that has left me home-bound for every part of my day that doesn’t involve my classes or extra-curricular activities.

After explaining my predicament to others, especially to feminist-minded individuals and those who hold values similar to WILL’s, one of the first questions I’m usually asked is “What are you doing for self-care?”

Now, this is not something you should avoid asking someone. It can be extremely validating and a great reminder to most people that they should be prioritizing their emotional/physical/mental health and well-being first and foremost, and it is definitely a question that is keeping in congruency with our WILL values. Self-care is important, valuable and necessary.self-care-yoga1Look at this bullshit that came up when I typed “self-care” into Google Image. Self-care is not only good because it allows women to perform feminized emotional labor for others, you piece of shit “inspirational” photo.

That being said, when someone asks me this question (and knowing with all my being that they ask it only with the best of intentions), I can’t help but feel like someone is trying to add more tasks to my already engorged to-do list. It gives me the same gripping anxiety that I feel when I’ve completely forgotten an assignment with an upcoming deadline, or when I wake up late for class, or when I’m assigned 400+ pages of reading to do over the weekend, or when I wake up in a panic from one of my weekly nightmares I have of doing any of these things. It feels like more work that I need to worry about doing when I’ve already got so much else I’ve got to get done.

I’m not sure exactly why this question elicits such a response. Maybe it’s the way it’s worded. “What are you doing” seems to demand more work from me, more doing that I need to get done. Maybe it’s the vagueness of the phrase “self-care” that leaves it up to me to figure out and list all of the things that I think would qualify as self-care, and that I also think are implementable within my limited time frame. Maybe if it were worded differently, but with the same intention of care, it might not feel like another anxiety-inducing task. “How are you handling everything so far?” “Are you doing alright with all of the demands of this semester?” “Do you feel supported and equipped to handle your work load?” “Why does capitalism demand so much sacrifice and productivity of us, even in more feminist-oriented classes and spaces?” Maybe these aren’t the right questions to ask either, but I don’t necessarily have the answer to this.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’ve completely given up any and all agency over the situation of my physical/emotional/mental health. I’ve tried compiling lists of what I usually (read: used to) do for self-care before this hectic semester:

  • Go on hikes and spend time out in nature
  • Buy myself small treats
  • Spend time with friends and loved ones
  • Spend time with animals
  • Read non-class related books
  • Fae faith/spirituality related rituals
  • Shop at farmer’s markets
  • Learn/practice Welsh
  • Play video games
  • Sing
  • Draw/illustrate

Right now, almost all of these things are either impossible for me to do or are extremely limited due to my lack of time, my amount of homework, my leg injury, the cold weather, and/or my lack of money and resources. Though I do as many of these things as I can, I’m not able to do them in enough quantity/quality for them to actually have much of an effect on my overall well-being. To pencil these activities in on my calendar gives me an amount of anxiety that I shouldn’t have about doing these activities, because I know that they are taking away time from something else that I need to be doing. When I’m doing these activities in the sparse amounts that I am actually able to, I can’t get rid of the constant nagging worry in the back of my head that reminds me of how much work I need to get done, and that I really don’t have the time to be doing these things. This causes the actual positive effect these self-care rituals would normally have on me to be cut in half, so not only am I doing these activities less, but they’re far less effective than they would normally be, and are causing me to worry more.

qnWPcawSource: The song starts around 6:10, but the whole video is actually really funny, and looking up humorous videos on the internet is another good way to practice self-care.

All of this being said, what can I actually be doing for self-care? Am I just going to have to deal with having poor physical/mental/emotional well-being? Do I have to reconsider my list of what I normally do for self-care? Are there other things I can be doing that would have similar effects that my normal self-care rituals have on my well-being? Is it possible at this point to reduce the amount of work that I have for this semester? Are there any commitments that I can cut back on? What should be my biggest priorities right now, and is there any way I can re-prioritize?

I’ve been asking myself these questions all semester, but to no avail. Right now, I’ve come to the conclusion that framing these questions around self-care is not giving me the answers and relief that I need. Instead, I’ve found myself asking, “What can I do to get through the rest of this semester?” The two answers that have given me the most comfort are “Do what you need to get done in order to survive” and “Look towards the finish line.” What I need to do to survive is eat enough, get enough sleep, pay my bills, do my homework well enough to pass all of my classes, and maintain my commitments to my extra-curricular activities. The finish line is April 30th at 2pm, the day that I graduate, and I can’t wait to cross it.


Jack Crofts (they/them/theirs) is a second year WILLer and 7th year senior studying Graphic Communication Design and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. They’re tired and can’t wait for this semester to be over.