The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Sexual abuse often shrouded in silence

One student shares experience to help others

Two years ago, fourth-year University of Maine student Samantha was returning to her dorm when her life was changed unexpectedly.

Samantha spent the evening in a resident hall with some friends and decided she was ready to go home. As she walked around a corner, a male jumped out from behind a tree and assaulted her.

She – like many others -chose not to report the incident because of shame, guilt and fear.

“I was convinced it was my fault,” she said. “I must have worn the wrong outfit or said the wrong thing.”

Samantha, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, felt she brought on the assault and convinced herself there was no point in reporting it because the police would think it was her fault, too.

“He said ‘follow me and you won’t regret it,'” she said. “I didn’t know what to do, I begged him to let me go.”

Before they got too much farther, Samantha’s cell phone rang and scared her assailant. He let her out of his grasp and took off running, but not before he had molested Samantha and left her feeling dirty and ashamed.

“At the time, I didn’t think I could feel any worse than I did at that moment,” she said. “Little did I know, in the days following I would be bombarded with a series of emotions.”

The incident happened about a month into the spring semester. Samantha said the incident made her quiet and lose her self-confidence. As a result, she lost friends and her grades dropped.

“I no longer trusted anyone and removed myself from any situation,” Samantha said. “Since I wouldn’t share what was wrong, my friends thought I just didn’t want to be around them anymore. And after inviting me to go places and me always saying no, they finally stopped calling.”

Two years after the incident, Samantha is still dealing with the emotions and consequences.

“The biggest emotions I have now are anger and regret with myself for not reporting it,” she said. “After reading several articles and doing research of my own, I am now aware it was not my fault and I should have gone to the police.”

According to a recent study done by the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, nearly one in five adult Maine residents reported they have been the victim of rape or attempted rape during their lifetime.

“I am now educated enough about this situation that if it were to ever happen again I wouldn’t think twice about reporting it,” she said. “I think people don’t realize how prevalent this issue is because so many aren’t reported.”

She said if she reported her assault, she may have helped another female.

“Knowing that I could have helped another person from going through what I have, if I had gone to the police, upsets me – but at the time it didn’t seem like an option.”

As for now, Samantha goes day by day.

“I never walk alone at night and I pay more attention to my surroundings,” she said. “I know this is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life, but I will graduate from the university with pride in the steps I have taken to get my life back.”

The number of reported sexual assaults at the University of Maine in 2006 was 11. Based on Department of Justice statistics, 226 sexual assaults would occur at a university similar to UMaine’s size each year.

The university has several resources for victims of sexual assault. The Women’s Resource Center (581-1508), the organization Student’s for a Safe Campus (581-2515) and the Student Women’s Association are available for victims to utilize or become involved and help stop sexual assault from happening.