*Trigger Warning*

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Sexual assault and women’s #metoo experiences have monopolized recent headlines. The topic has been the focus of attention even before the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation played out on the national stage. But as a result, the volume has been turned up dramatically around believing women’s accounts. In the past year, many women have shared their stories publicly to shine a floodlight on the issue.

It was in that interest that a Wilton High School graduate contacted GOOD Morning Wilton to share her story. She told us that when she was a student here, she had been raped by another WHS student at a party attended by several other WHS students. Witnessing the events around the Senate confirmation hearings was very difficult, she said, but she wanted, in her words, “… to write an open letter to you about my feelings and experience with rape in Wilton and what is going on in the news right now. There is an inappropriate lack of awareness on sexual assault in Wilton and in our country that must be addressed.”  

She asked us to publish her account but requested to remain anonymous. In her own words, she writes about what happened, what impact the assault has had on her, and what she wants Wilton residents to know about sexual assault.

To confirm the woman’s story we spoke with her mother, who both corroborated her daughter’s account, and provided a copy of the hospital records from the examination that was done after the assault; her mother also provided a Wilton Police Department case number, which we confirmed was a sexual assault case with the Wilton Police. We also spoke with school officials, who the former student provided with her account as well. 

We have taken pains to do what we can to withhold this woman’s identity and remove any identifying details. We do not know the name of the person she says assaulted her. What’s important is her story and what she wants the community to know. –HBH

I was sexually assaulted at a Wilton High School party with less than 20 people in attendance. I, like many other high school girls in Wilton, believed that rape was a far out concept that would never occur in our small, safe town. I was wrong.

Throughout my time at Wilton High School, I had a representative come in to discuss sexual assault once a year. That was all of the education that I had on the topic. Four days in health class. My uncle, a former lieutenant, once told me before I went to a party with my friends that I should never drink anything that I did not pour myself and that once I put down a drink, I could not drink it again. I laughed at him. It seemed ridiculous to me. We live in a town where a parent calls into school if their child has a 92 instead of a 93. God forbid we had rapists and harassers milling around.

I was wrong. I went to a small gathering at one of my best friends’ houses. I drank too much. Full disclosure for all the Wilton parents out there–your child has almost definitely been in the exact same situation. They probably have had or know someone who has had the exact same experience as me. I am a young girl. It is easy for me to get drunk unintentionally. It would be easy for your daughter to get drunk unintentionally.

Two hours into the party, my rapist arrived. I knew him. I know almost everyone in my grade.There is a level of trust between all of us. While I did not know it at the time, the vast majority of rape cases are similar to this. The victim knows and trusts the perpetrator. I learned this from the nurse who did the rape kit for me, not from the school district that raised me for much of my life.

In short, I was told to meet the boy in private by a friend. I was drunk. I listened. When the boy asked me to have sex with him, I said no in easily 10 different ways. He kept asking. He kept trying. The boy yelled at me that night. I went home that night and cried hysterically to my brother. I broke his heart when I told him that a boy I knew and trusted had forced me to have sex with him. I thought that it was my fault that this happened. I considered ending my life–33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide and 13% of women who are raped actually attempt it. I experienced PTSD from that night for weeks. Even now, I still do. The first few days after it happened, I did not even let my mother hug me. [Like me], 94% of survivors experience PTSD.

I learned everything that I know about sexual assault the next day. I went online in the morning to find out what I was supposed to do. I told my mother. She took me to the hospital where I had a kit done. Everything that I had not learned online was told to me by the nurse and the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) representative assigned to my case.

I feel so fortunate to have attended Wilton High School, but at the time, I had never felt like my school had let me down more. Our town tends to ignore the bad and focus on the good, for the most part. Generally, I like this concept. Optimism is important. In terms of sexual assault and drug and alcohol abuse, our town turns a blind eye to the underlying problems at our high school and this absolutely has to change. An estimated 1-in-6 women has experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. If something does not change, fast, then your son or daughter could be all too familiar with this statistic.

After my sexual assault, I had the misfortune of learning just how big of a problem it is in our town. The boy who sexually assaulted me has harassed or assaulted at least three other girls besides me… that I know of. I chose to be open about what happened to me. I did not think that I could handle pressing charges against this boy, but I wanted to raise awareness around our school about the problem. To my dismay, most girls that I shared my story with had similar stories of their own. The same general picture was painted each time:  I went to a party, I drank too much, I do not remember what happened, I do not know how I got into that situation. He knew me.

I lost trust in other men because of him. I questioned if I caused it. It’s not a big deal, though. It’s been weeks, months, years. I used to tell people it was not a big deal that it had happened to me. When you tell someone that you were a victim of sexual assault, you fear that they will view you differently. I did not want people to treat me like a victim. It had changed how I saw myself, and I did not want that to happen with my friends and family. Later, I realized that by telling people that it was not a big deal, I was defending my rapist. It was a big deal. Everyone deserves to know how big of a deal it was to me. If one girl changes how she acts at a party or stands up when she sees a situation where someone seems uncomfortable with someone else’s advances, telling my story is worth it.

Start having the conversation. Start educating your kids. Do not wait until it is too late to educate us on the dangers of sexual assault, of drinking, of doing drugs.

This past week, watching the news has been hard for me. I think it’s particularly troubling for me because a large population of our country has chosen to put their trust in a man who was cited saying to someone that they should “Grab [women] by the p–––y. You can do anything.” This one comment, by no means, implies that our current president directly caused my experience with sexual assault to occur, but when men like my perpetrator see people in power who have little to no respect for women, it allows them to act the same. A president is supposed to be a person that our entire nation can look up to, and because of our country’s voting situation in 2016, we elected a man who has been accused of sexually harassing many different women, and accused of assaulting others. It should not have come as a shock to any of us when he nominated a man accused of sexual assault for the Supreme Court, one of the highest positions this country has.

A few days ago, I watched on the news as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford did what she thought was right for this country and testified about the most traumatic event that can ever occur for a young girl. My heart broke for her as I listened to her testify. I did not have the courage to testify against the boy who raped me because, in our legal justice system, the burden of proof is on the accuser. I did not have the courage, nor was I in a place mentally where I would have been able to take the stand and testify against the boy who I trusted who forced me to have sex with him. Dr. Ford did not testify to push her own political agenda, she spoke up like many women had when Trump was running for president because our nation deserves to know the type of men being put in power. I did not press charges against my rapist, but if I knew that he were about to be put in a position of power as high as the Supreme Court, I have no doubt that I, too, would speak my truth.

The hardest part of this week, undoubtedly, was watching our president mock Dr. Ford in front of a crowd of men and women who cheered him on in Mississippi. I was, quite frankly, unsurprised by the blatant disrespect shown by the man who has been cited asking, “What do these geniuses expect when they put men & women together,” in response to the estimated 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military in 2013.

What stuck with me while watching the video was that, in general, none of my peers have discussed it. Everyone was fast to state that Dr. Ford was making stuff up for her own benefit. I saw classmates I respect put out on social media that Ford was lying. They were quick to voice their opinion of a survivor’s story, but no one discussed the lasting impact that Donald Trump’s actions will have on all victims of sexual assault.

While Dr. Ford testified, the calls to the sexual assault hotline spiked 201%. You may not even be able to fully comprehend how important this is, but regardless of what you believe, Dr. Ford gave sexual assault survivors courage. She told her story and gave thousands of others the will to speak theirs. She spoke up and made others believe they could, too. She gave me the courage to write this letter. Trump’s remarks took away from this power and courage. He showed that the general public resents the survivor who speaks up instead of the perpetrator who ruined a piece of that person’s life. He took away the voice that Dr. Ford had given to many victims of sexual assault. The people cheering him on while he made fun of a woman’s experience with sexual assault showed me and others like me that I am not important, that my story is not important, if it means that someone else is affected, if it means that the man who almost ruined my life has to suffer the consequences.

So, what can you do? For starters, you can sit down with your loved ones to have an open and honest conversation about sexual assault and rape culture in our town. Parents, ask your children if they or anyone they know have been affected by sexual assault, if they have experienced it. I understand that a parent loves their child unconditionally and does not want to imagine that they could be involved with sexual assault. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was tell my mother that I was sexually assaulted. The only thing that would have been harder for me would have been informing my rapist’s parents that they had raised a boy who had prioritized his own needs and desires over my life. In order to avoid hearing anything like this from or about your child, our town needs to change what we are doing.

Just a few months ago, we read in the paper that a recent high school graduate was arrested on sexual assault charges. I am telling you that I was sexually assaulted by a different boy. I know of other boys in my grade who are known for going after girls who have drank too much, of being a bit grabby, of sexually assaulting others.

Start having the conversation. Start educating your kids. Wilton school district, your students are going to begin going to parties as early as eighth grade and freshman year. Do not wait until it is too late to educate us on the dangers of sexual assault, of drinking, of doing drugs. I ask that you all have the conversation, and listen to your children when they tell you about their experiences. I ask that you believe survivors.

To WHS students, I ask that you believe survivors even if it means that you have to change who you are friends with, even if it means that your “friend group” has to change. Stop desensitizing yourself to the issue. Stop disassociating yourself from sexual assault. If someone has the courage to open up to you about their story, do not belittle them, do not ignore it, do not state that it could not have been your friend. If you are a victim of sexual assault, speak up. Raise your voice. Share your story. You will feel better if you have a support system around you. It will make your pain and grief more manageable. If you have sexually assaulted someone, recognize that you have done it, understand that you destroyed a part of that person, and change what you are doing without seeking their approval. You do not deserve their forgiveness. You do not deserve to justify your actions. You do not deserve to try to heal your reputation. Change the way you treat women.

Wilton, it is time for you to open the floor and discuss. I would do anything to go back in time and seek education on sexual assault before it happened to me. I truly hope that you will do something, not just at the high school, but at our middle school. Speak to your children in college, speak to your children who are done with school. It still matters. Sexual assault will always be a big deal. Do not make it any less than that.

If you or someone you care about has experienced a sexual assault, there are resources for assistance, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (800.656.4673) or the RAINN website. Locally, there is counseling, advocacy and victim support available from The Center (for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education) which has a hotline 203.329.2929 to help victims, or people who suspect someone they know has been abused or the victim of sexual violence. Wilton Police can be reached at 203.834.6260.

To read all the stories in today’s series, follow these links:

SPECIAL REPORT: “I Was Sexually Assaulted by a WHS Classmate”

SPECIAL REPORT: Sexual Assault in Wilton–A Conversation with School Officials

SPECIAL REPORT: Sexual Assault in Wilton–A Conversation with Wilton Police

SPECIAL REPORT:  Sexual Assault in Wilton–Resources