By Alycia Bennett
As a new transfer student at AU, it has been overwhelming settling in to campus life, exploring all that D.C. has to offer and balancing working and going to school full-time.
However, nothing has been more challenging and more emotional than sleeping in my dorm room each night.
About two years ago, I was raped in the dorm room at my previous college. The attacker was the campus coordinator for a well-known non-profit organization in which I had been a long serving volunteer. The incident traumatized me, left me with serious post-traumatic stress disorder and also crushed my confidence of working in the non-profit organization. Depression and anxiety controlled my mind so aggressively; I was convinced I would fail all of my classes.
I was wrong. After being hospitalized, having severe breakdowns and suffering from illnesses from my attack, I managed to pass all of my classes.
When the semester ended, I was told by family and friends to take a break from college and focus on healing. I stubbornly rejected their suggestions as I did not want my sexual assault to further disrupt my college life.
As hard as it was, I enrolled in community college and worked tirelessly for two years to get into my dream school, AU.
When I was rejected from AU out of high school, it broke my heart and so I was determined to get accepted the second time around.
The day I was accepted into AU was one of the happiest days of my life. All the times I worked at 5 a.m. and the nights I stayed up studying had paid off. I knew that AU would be a great place to shape my passions for Arabic and foreign policy.
Going to sleep is difficult. I often have nightmares about the assault. Many nights, I barely sleep at all.
This does not stop me from loving AU though. Every day I go to class, I stop and think about how blessed I am.
In January, I found out that my balance for the semester would be much higher than I anticipated. I have tried to obtain private loans and more financial assistance and have been unsuccessful. Now, after working hard for so many years to continue my education, I am faced with the possibility of having to drop out of AU after only one semester.
Accepting this possibility has been impossible. I belong at AU, and so I will go above and beyond to stay at AU. I have set up a page on GoFundMe.com and have raised $1,975 among family, friends and strangers. I have been picking up extra shifts to save money and I have sent over 200 emails to organizations, foundations and philanthropists asking for support.
I will not allow depression, insecurity and trauma to define this new year. When I wake up unmotivated and doubt my abilities to overcome this obstacle, I remember why it’s important for me to push on. Many rape victims don’t tell their stories, suffer the trauma alone for years. Some even drop out of college altogether.
Because of this, I am more determined than ever to fundraise my remaining balance and succeed in my studies at AU.
I have been lucky to have a huge support network helping me. It is my hope that by fighting for my education and staying optimistic, I can inspire another rape survivors to do the same.
No one can break your spirit, cage your dreams or ruin your life.
Don’t give up.
Alycia Bennett is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.