Campus Life

Breaking silence

An account of sexual assault

Author’s foreword

I am writing this not because I know exactly what words are the most right to say, but because I know it is important: I know it is important, and I know that I am not alone.

I graduated from MIT nearly two years ago, with a relatively normal, MIT life. I lived in a dorm, double majored, was involved in various student groups, and spent most of my spare time doing research. In the spring of my junior year, I was raped by an older colleague within my research group, losing my virginity.

I viewed the man as a mentor and close friend, and I felt a great deal of respect and trust for him, as a mentor. A dinner that I thought was going to be about discussing science turned into something extremely wrong.

For over a year–a year of confusion and deep depression — I remained primarily silent. My grades and focus suffered tremendously, but I was too embarrassed to tell any of my professors or teachers, or even most of my friends and family, what I was going through.

Only in the weeks leading to my graduation, I reported the case, formally, to the police, with the support of MIT’s extremely supportive Violence Prevention and Response program (VPN). I was afraid of reporting, for not being believed, for making the man who had done it to me angry, for potentially ruining a former friend’s life (when all I wanted to do was protect other students), and even for the ungrounded fear of losing all respect from my research advisor.

After three months of repeatedly explaining my story first to the supportive MIT police, then to the supportive local police, and finally to an unsupportive Assistant District Attorney, I was eventually told by the ADA that I had merely had “traumatic sex” and that the man was “sick” and “an *sshole.” But, “it was not illegal for [him] to want sex,” she said. She told me that there was not a clear enough of a struggle, and that “consent is not like signing a contract” (that my standards for consent were too high).

Although I now know with 100 percent certainty that I did the right thing for myself and my situation — in reporting the rape to authorities — I was even more deeply traumatized by the experience, at the time. I have since decided that silence would have been the most painful type of humiliation to bear, especially over time. But it was the concern for the well-being of other young, trusting and equally vulnerable students that initially drove me into action: action to report and now action to speak publicly.

After years of therapy, the love of my family and close friends, travel, and self-care, I am beginning to feel whole again. I am sharing this story here, because I want to give hope to any individual — male or female — who may currently feel voiceless, confused, worthless or hopeless, due to sexual violence. You are not alone and your amount of worth is infinite. Be gentle and patient with yourself.

Here is my story.

It is as raw and unedited as when I first put words to my experience — in the weeks before I reported my rape to the police — over two years ago:

Junior spring. Sex without adequate warning. Sex without my consent. Sex in a clearly imbalanced power scenario. A man 10 years my senior. Deeply disturbing and nauseating. Coworker. R---?

It is so much easier to deny than to say.


As a “strong” woman, I initially wanted to forget it had ever happened: I believed that I was an extraordinarily naïve person who had fell into a foxhole. At the time, I did not consider how it was fundamentally flawed to view myself as prey, and him, a socially acceptable predator. I wanted to believe that night was a glitch that may or may not have happened: it was left to me to decide.

Regardless of whether his primary ammunition was his net of words or the dead weight of his body on top of me, I initially accepted that this was the way things were, and I noted my inadequacy in navigating the system–in all of my shock and numbness. It was too bizarre to possibly ever understand.

The most important reality, I thought, was that nothing had happened, as far as the rest of the world knew. I was still alive and that’s all that really mattered. I could go on with my life, however I would choose. I believed that the only seed of shame produced that night was firmly planted in me — not him — and if I could hide it well enough, no one would need to see its spec of ugliness.

Yet, I had asked him to stop multiple times and tried to push him off of me. I knew this. He ignored me, but who was to blame? I had not spit in his face or tried to claw his eyes out. Instead I lay on his bed naked — with my clothes peeled off — trying to calmly explain that I would not, I could not, have sex with him. The rapid, forceful, and completely foreign advances were too much already. My “stop” was immediately silenced with “your body wants me so bad.” When he didn’t listen, my brain failed to believe it was actually happening and shut down. I felt deep guilt and shame that my subsequent silence was interpreted as a waving white flag: mistaken for consent.

I told him “stop” and I truthfully told him that I was a virgin. Yet, when he was finished, hours later, he pushed me aside saying, “You were never a virgin anyways” (what did he even mean? I still do not know). He damned my desire for rationality to a hell of pure absurdity; he suddenly became not a person but a wall.

I could not process why suddenly, after years of working alongside him, why my words and opinions were suddenly inadequate. Instead, I wondered when, exactly, did I stop existing as a student? Had I always been this silent to him? I did not fully consider why he wanted to watch me wash myself. Comparing this familiar action to the previous night’s unfamiliar events, it seemed like an act of charity and not a means of self-preserving insurance.

“I can’t help but feel that I took advantage of you and it’s not really fair,” he later wrote. That was as close to an apology as I would ever get, and those words seemed to come from an entirely different spring: one which was vaguely familiar and contained traces of logic. But regardless, what exactly was not fair he never explicitly stated or clarified. I would never understand.

The first person I described my experience to (the day I had been dropped off at my dorm room) was another student, who I viewed as a more-experienced friend whose judgment I then respected more than my own. But when I began to describe what had happened, she interrupted me with kind laughter and gently touched my shoulder saying, “no one can be that stupid” (in response to my description of how I was alone with him, to begin with). “The next time you’re in a situation and you don’t know what it means, you call me,” she said. I reminded her that I had lost my cell phone, weeks before.

Extending her advice, she told me “I know it feels weird now that he was much older than you, that he wasn’t your boyfriend, and that you were uncomfortable with wanting it at the moment,” she paused “But at least did you get any sexual pleasure from it?”

“No,” I had not.

That didn’t seem to matter.

She said she had to work on some homework and hugged me goodbye. I remembered I had to do the same.

Even then — even in a stage that I now call shock and denial — I realized that my sexual experience was physically painful, his words were taunting and hurtful, his neglect for my opinion was belittling, and his seemingly older and wiser advice that “I could tell no one” was humiliating. The abuse of his power was evident; he was ten years my senior and in a higher-ranked position at my workplace. As an opening to the night, he bragged that only weeks before had he “helped secure” a multi-million dollar grant, which he described over an uncomfortably overpriced dinner that he insisted on buying me. It was because of his work, he said, that people could do much needed-research, probably in things like cancer. Here, he was the true ethical hero, he said: focusing on the big picture and what really mattered.

The morning after, he reminded me that other girls always enjoyed “it” more than I had. He suggested I should get to know my body more, and then I wouldn’t feel so uneasy next time. I needed to learn how to “let go” of myself, he said, if I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to believe he was wrong — part of me always wanted to believe that I wasn’t the reason for my own confusion and lack of control—but as he pointed out, I was now uncertain of everything, and should be.

His words: “F**king tease,” “you want it,” “stop fighting it,” “let it feel good,” “relax,” “yes,” “this is just like porn,” “you want this,” and “I’m sorry I never told you how cute you are” cycled through my head and taunted me relentlessly. I wanted to believe that his words, and my inability to process them–rather than the act of rape itself — were the real enemy. It was easier that way.

But my body and my subconscious forced me to believe otherwise.

In the days following, I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not cry. I could not move. I failed my only final that marking period, and I barely finished my other classes’ final projects. I upset my dorm’s housemasters by not moving out of my room on time, and I missed my first flight home. Most everyone I knew had already moved out and left for the summer. In the following days, I would miss three more rescheduled flights. At least, I could not be bothered to care.

Finally, a friend unaware of what had happened and who lived in the area, helped me box all of my belongings and move them into the basement. She wanted to say goodbye before the summer began, and she noticed I needed help when she unexpectedly stopped by. For the first time in days, I ate. I had a reason to get out of bed and reclaim the movement of my limbs. Like most of my friends, I told her nothing. She will unlikely ever know how much she saved me that day.

Nearly a year later, my nightmares have not ceased, but my story is no longer one that I carry alone. I have finally accepted that I cannot forget, and I should not forget. But perhaps what is most interesting, is only now have I begun to feel true fear. I still wake up each morning, unable to discern that the hand resting on my shoulder is my own, and not another’s. I continue to half-sleep each night, fully-clothed, with all of my lights on. I spend the first moments of each morning in unquenchable nausea and fear.

But, what I worry of more, is what will happen if I remain silent. I am beginning to question what I can do, or what I should do, with what I can remember. I have accepted that I will never be able to tell if I am reacting too little or not enough. I realize that all that I can be from now on is what remnants I have chosen to keep of myself: what I remember, what I feel, and what I think is worth speaking for.

Before, as a consequence of post-traumatic stress, I dreamed every night that a different man raped me. In excruciating detail, I dreamed myself being raped by my closest friends, men I have loved and trusted, my family, and men I have purely imagined. Faithfully, every night, men would sink into my dreams and find me. Each night was a new and complex scenario; each rape I was unprepared for and took me by surprise. I woke up each morning, shaking, crying, and needing to throw-up everything I had eaten the previous evening.

Even in the daylight, and even now, I am constantly startled. I constantly forget things, and I constantly drop things I am holding, without even noticing. I have let many of my peer-aged friendships disintegrate, which I am now trying to restore and re-patch. I no longer get joy in eating at elaborate dinner-dates in their company (I realize, the more I eat, the more I will vomit the next morning), and I hate men’s stares and walking alone to my apartment.

I now realize this makes things difficult, but not impossible. I became convinced that if a man ever forced himself on me again, I would rather die fighting than live in an eternal night of loneliness, confusion, nightmares and vomit. More so, however, I became more and more aware that no other woman, man, or child should ever feel so hopelessly trapped and alone, in the same way that I have. I now worry more for the health of other people; people perhaps like me.

Most of all, I have come to realize that when one cannot distinguish a deeply disturbing emotional and physical hell from what is the socially accepted “norm,” there must be something about the norm, in reality, which is seriously flawed.

Now, my dreams have not ceased, but the content has dramatically changed. I dream of telling my boss, the police, and my entire family of what happened. In my nightmares, no one believes me, and I am thrown out of the room. I never know precisely who to tell, or how. My words are never adequate or sufficient. I am tormented by this worry in both my waking and sleeping hours alike.

Trusted friends assure me this is a largely irrational fear, and I wish I could believe them. But I think this — this question of whether her point holds any real validity, or even if it should — means that I am making progress.

This account is anonymous to protect the identity of the author.

Anonymous over 8 years ago


I'm sorry your "friend" didn't support you when you needed it most. Thank you for sharing your story.

Andrew F. over 8 years ago

In Talbot 7:30-9pm on Reg Day, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center will teach a class on how to respond to someone confiding to you that theyve been sexually assaulted.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I am so sorry for what you went through, and I'm in awe of your bravery in publicly sharing your story here. I just want to comment on one thing which I feel may be hurtful to other survivors:

'But at least did you get any sexual pleasure from it?

No, I had not.

That didnt seem to matter.'

... actually, it doesn't matter. Many, many people experience orgasms while being raped. Being aroused or having an orgasm is ABSOLUTELY NOT proof that the sex was consensual.

PMK over 8 years ago

I'm so sorry for what you experienced, and I admire your bravery in sharing your story. I hope that speaking out helps you find peace, and that justice comes around on your attacker. Unfortunately you are not alone in this terrible experience - your story may help others come forward and begin to heal themselves. Thank you.

Best wishes.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I am glad you shared your story, and your experience when it was still fresh.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I have never read such a detailed and gut-wrenching account. Please keep it, don't change it, and shout it from the mountaintops, knowing that each time you do so, you prove to another woman that she is not alone, and to another man that rape is not something to joke about. I only wish there were some way to make everybody read this.

Thank you.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Thank you for telling this difficult story. It is vital to report these crimes. This man seems to have been, and probably still is, addicted to pornography and has a warped view of women. He is a sick person with a criminal mind, and he should be prosecuted for what he did to you, and possibly to others. When a university gets a report, they must investigate and there has to be a way of preventing this man from continuing to harm others. He will. In my town we have a registry of sex offenders, that shows where the person works and lives. Perhaps this is one remedy, if he cannot go to prison. He needs psychological assistance as well. Pornography warps the brain.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

7, please keep unfounded political statements out of the discussion of this tragedy. What happened to this student is an unforgivable act of one man, not of media content.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

8: Rape is inherently political. It is an act of violence used to control another person, usually one who is systematically oppressed (ie: women, queers, indigenous people, etc). By individualizing this case, you ignore the fact that we live in a culture that trains certain members of society that raping is acceptable behavior (or at least behavior one can get away with) and the root causes of rape culture-- patriarchy, to name one.

Jeremy D. Sher '99 over 8 years ago

To the author: Thank you for your courage in telling this story. We need to hear it.

Students, all members of the MIT community: please know that Sarah Rankin (, MIT's new Title IX Coordinator, wants to talk with you if you have been raped, sexually assaulted, or harassed. It can be scary to tell your story, but if you feel comfortable doing so, it will help MIT to address the problem at its source, and to protect others. The author of this story decided to tell her story in order to protect others -- it's a courageous move, and many of us are here to support you if you decide to make this move. Sarah is starting a database of incidents, which will provide the evidence needed to address the problems it will show.

As the RA at pika, I keep hearing from my students about a permissive rape culture in one or more dorms on campus. This has been going on for years. It's not that the students are naturally so bad: this has been going on for twice the tenure of undergraduate students at MIT, and I don't think the Admissions Office is in the habit of admitting so many serial felons. And it's not that dorm cultures are so bad either: I remember Eastside culture from when I was a student 15 years ago, and I think I'd know if rape was this prevalent in those houses back then.

We need to figure out what the problem is on this campus. Now would be a good time.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

9 -- i agree about the inherently political nature of rape. but i think you've misunderstood 8's point. 7 is right that the man should be brought to justice, but it's inappropriate to hijack this woman's story to talk about how pornography is evil (the political statement 8 referred to) and to project psychological makeup assumptions onto the man in question.

the psychology of a rapist is complex and appears to involve lots of factors that we can only speculate about for this man, based on the limited information from the story. but the point is that the man should be brought to justice because he committed an unjust crime, not because of 7's ideas about his character...

10 -- thanks for your comment, but i wouldn't be so sure that you would know if rape was prevalent back then. the movement happening today to break the silence around rape is taking place because of the silence in which most rape victims feel trapped. speaking out, even in 2012 as evidenced in this story, can be a humiliating and traumatic experience, and it is not without good reason that many victims kept their stories to themselves: no one wanted to hear about it.

i appreciate that you support sarah rankin's efforts, and sound supportive in general, but your offhand comment takes away from that somewhat. rape isn't new. talking about it, louder, is what's new at mit at least, and it's time for the community and administration to listen.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

As an undergrad, I naively trusted the "world-class, MIT Community," not realizing how many predators it includes and even shields. Through my own PTSD and MIT experience, which included such a predator becoming "persona non grata" on campus yet admitted by Sloan not long afterward, unfortunately I share similar symptoms as the author describes and find that I cannot trust the opposite sex unless they have proven themselves to be trustworthy and not be dangerous after five or more years, even with peer confirmation. Sadly, more than 20 years later and after a decade of therapy, this is probably the best I can hope for. I hope that the author of this piece can find a way to heal better than I.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I want to walk up to you and give you the biggest, most caring hug possible. Thank you for writing. I can't imagine what articulating that must have been like.. thank you.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

It's also worth noting that Sarah Rankin (srankin at will hear complaints / stories about incidents or how the Institute could have better handled any incidents you know of. A committee, chaired by Rankin, if I remember correctly, has been formed to investigate current Institute procedure for handling rape cases. The wheels are turning, indeed.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

The Litte Prince meets a fox that imparts this secret -- "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

You are so beautiful. Thank you for your voice.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I, too, wish I could give you a hug. Thank you for your bravery and resolve after such a harrowing experience. I know it wasn't easy--but it's not in vain.

My first year at MIT, one of my friends confided in me that she was raped by a classmate. And then shortly after, I heard of another rape, that happened in my dorm building. I felt so helpless and confused. I thought MIT would shield me from such things, but apparently not. I wish I could have done more instead of being in my haze of busy-ness and confusion...

I also experienced well-meaning friends making light of and not being there for me after a traumatic experience (being sexually harassed at my first job out of college). It gets me how our closest female friends, who you think would be the most sympathetic, can sometimes be the most insensitive and do even more damage.

Ditto what #4 and #6 said. MIT and the world needs to know about this. Enough is enough.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Sharing your story is the most important step in protecting others. Thank you for doing so.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Forgive me, that I am unable to put forth the necessary energy to express the depth of my regard for you and the words you've shared with the broader community. I am deeply sorry, and for a moment I transcended into what is only a fraction, a mere negligent representation, of the inexpressible, stomach-twisted, experience you have. I plead that as a society we were open and understanding enough to ease, understand, to relate and share your pain, to understand and not perpetuate this sort of looping cycle of fear. You are a beautiful person and you are loved. My best.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I wish it was easier for survivors to be able to pursue legal or other action without having to be subject to giving repeated accounts of their traumatic rape to people they barely know for years and years until the case is resolved. This is a huge barrier that gets in between a survivor and legal justice. That and the fact that legal justice doesn't undo what's already happened, which is all a survivor wishes for. The current legal system only drives the trauma deeper by forcing retelling after retelling, each time risking the survivor thinking that the people listening may not believe.

I know at least one person who's been subject to continually having to recount her attacks for years and to tons of people she doesn't know, and another person who, fearing having to do this, has not taken legal action.

Thank you, Anonymous, for your strength and honesty.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

As the proud parents of a daughter who entered MIT very young, we were traumatized when she called us long distance after something far too much like this happened to her. The evil man was more than ten years older and in a position of power over her, a grad student TA for a famous professor in an important class. When we were MIT students 30 years ago we were aware that things like this were happening, but there is no excuse for anyone to tolerate it today. Only a very few men are predators but our culture, joking and dismissive, enables them to commit these crimes again and again.

Please, MIT, recognize that your statistics are bad on this -- worse even than at the other Boston area universities. The 98 of men who would never rape are in the best position to stop the perverted few. There are lots of excellent resources available to help us all understand how we can take on this responsibility. Listen for example to Zerlina Maxwell; or read The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz, for starters.

Sofia Ortiz-Hinojosa over 8 years ago

Hello. I just wanted to say, thank you very much for posting this, and I want to add myself to the voices of support. Although this did not happen at MIT, I was sexually assaulted when I was younger, and I still have not found the right way to communicate my confusion, pain, and nausea. The things I associate with the event I cannot be exposed to without feeling twisted and out of place. So you are remarkable for your strength and determination and openness, and I commend you, so many times I commend you. What is most sorely needed is to break the silence, break it enough times from enough places that people stop hearing these kinds of stories unblinkingly.

But I have some advice. Maybe this will not work for you - we are all different. But I thought I would share. I have found that what helps the most is letting it out, as you have done. Each and every time is difficult and painful and you will not want to, but it helps. Let out the steam and the anxiety every so often so that it doesn't drop in on you whenever it chooses to. Force it out productively or empathically. Write, or draw, or paint, or act, whatever it is you have to do to express your pain. Or just sit and have a friend listen to you. You don't have to talk about the event, or the person, or the room, or anything related; just let out the feelings. It will take a while. But you will rebuild, and your heart will hurt still, but you'll be better one day.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Dr. David Lisak at UMass Boston has done excellent research on the motives and behavior of rapists, shedding light on what is fact and what is myth, and most importantly pointing the way toward reducing sexual violence--without placing the impetus on the victims to solve their own crimes after the fact. In fact, the impetus is on bystanders--on any and all of us, whenever we are in a position to do so--to refuse to tolerate this crime in our community. MIT would be a much better place if there was widespread understanding (and conscious rejection) of cultural norms that foster and abet this criminal behavior.

From Lisak's paper "Understanding The Predatory Nature Of Sexual Violence": "This picture conflicts sharply with the widely-held view that rapes committed on university campuses are typically the result of a basically 'decent'

young man who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing. While some campus rapes do fit this more benign view, the evidence points to a far less benign reality, in which the vast majority of rapes are committed by serial, violent predators.

"This less benign reality has potentially significant implications for how universities deal with sexual violence within their community. Prevention efforts geared toward persuading men not to rape are very unlikely to be effective. Lessons can be drawn from many decades of experience in sex offender treatment, which have demonstrated that it is extremely difficult to change the behavior of a serial predator even when you incarcerate him and subject him to an intensive, multi-year program. Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders men and women who are part of the social and cultural milieu in which rapes are spawned and who can be mobilized to identify perpetrators and intervene in high-risk situations."

Lots more information where that came from, and it's online and free. There is no excuse for ignoring the research on this.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Your voice is very strong, and it will be heard by many. Courage is hard to find when one wants to share this type of information with family or friends one truly trust. But from my experience, it is often much easier than what you would expect.

I was an MIT student as well, graduated three years ago from undergrad, and two years ago from grad school. I also was a victim of sexual abuse, but mine was not a one-night thing, it was my then boyfriend. It took me a long time to realize that things were not right, but one day I woke up and realized it. I started sharing my story with many people, and I now know who truly cares, who didn't try to make excuses for him, and who I can turn to.

I hope you find the same people and that you find a bit of courage everyday to give yourself a chance at letting go. I still am not able to completely let go, but everyday, even if it is just by 1/1000th, I feel that every day, I try to get over it. Will I ever be over it? Will I ever trust anyone and be in a relationship again? I hope so. And I hope the same for you too.

There are some good people out there. Good luck, and thank you for breaking the silence.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Seems like there are some logical leaps in your story.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Thank you for having the courage to share your story.

Kate McCarthy over 8 years ago

Thank you to anonymous for sharing her story. If anyone in the MIT community needs someone to talk to, or wants help with a sexual assault, rape, dating/domestic violence, stalking or sexual harassment, please call Violence Prevention Response's 24-hour hotline at (617)253-2300 or email us at

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I ended up with a mild case of PTSD after an attempted rape. I was never really sure what to do afterwards, because when I tried to explain to him that the ensuing argument had saved him from becoming a rapist, he was just convinced that I was trying to ruin his future. (If It was actually trying to ruin his future, I would have let him have sex with me, and then gotten a rape kit afterwards. He didn't appreciate that analysis.)

He was convinced that I "wanted it" and was offended that his sexual advances were in any way not identical to what I wanted from him. I was offended that I had to threaten a lawsuit in order to get him to back down. And I was scared of him afterwards, because I was not used to making plans for gathering evidence to enforce basic cultural standards.

I was a little bit surprised that I was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD (very mildly - I could eat and sleep fine, but I was jumpy, had a heightened awareness of my surroundings, was always aware of a plan to run away, and was unreasonably scared to be in the same room or hear the voice of my naively forceful friend). At the time, I also didn't know that PTSD could be caused by anything but gunshots and bombs. Furthermore, I was never actually raped, because his penis never (successfully) made it out of his pants. I just got very mild PTSD from it.

I was brought to awareness that having a law doesn't mean that people will follow it. There must be an escalation method into actionable real-world physical realities. That the threat of post-facto retribution might be a threat that needs to be carried out. That someone might think that you are aren't serious. The knowledge that the only control that I had over my body was given to me by the state, rather than anything intrinsic about my abilities, and that the state is not always exactly competent.

There was something disturbing about the fact that my friend didn't believe me when I told him that I didn't want to have sex with him. That my friend didn't trust me to know what I wanted or did not want. That he "knew what was best for me" and I didn't have any choice in the matter. That I actually didn't have any choice in the matter, if he cared about his reputation a little bit less. The knowledge of my own powerlessness, of how barely I managed control my own situation, and how easy it would have been to give up my personhood. Those are bits of knowledge that will stay with me forever, even though I was never raped.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story. You are incredibly brave for coming forward at all; unfortunately, the response you received is all too common.

You are a hero.

You have inspired me to take action -- so, that's at least one person for whom you've made a difference.

Please, continue to grow stronger. Please do whatever it takes to get and stay healthy.

Barbara Reilly over 8 years ago

To the beautiful woman who wrote this, you are incredible. You are worthy of so much love and support, for the hell you endured and for your bravery in speaking out. I wish for you continued healing and I hope the pain you've carried around lessens every day knowing you are giving a voice to so many, you are lighting a fire that is necessary to create change.

My daughter was raped at Syracuse University 5 months ago. She and her friends who were also assaulted started the Girl Code Movement (which you can find on Twitter and Facebook). She went public as well, appearing with several others who were victims of this unthinkable, hellacious crime. We've all been thrown into this world that we struggle to this day understanding. The only option for us is to climb out of it, day by day by day. It is a struggle. Especially when every single day is a reminder that it exists all around us. And the responses are so unpredictable. If it were cancer, people typically know what to say. With rape, the wounds reopen constantly, as you experienced with that "friend" who was clueless and ridiculous with her response to you.

My daughter is a hero to me, as are her friends who went public, as are the women who post on TGCM Facebook page, as are you, and as are the guy friends she has that remind her daily there are good men out there.

Dear sweet "anonymous", may you realize that you are not what happened to you. You are who you were before this all happened and you are now even stronger. You are no longer a victim. You are a survivor. Wishing you a future with love and happiness that knows no end.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I assumed you named him to the police. I assume you named him to the D.A. Do us a favor, my dear, and name him to the people more likely to be harmed by him. Name him. Your career is one thing, but courage is something you'll need all your life, even more than money and position. Name him.

I know whereof I speak.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

The silence is partially broken. The woman who was assaulted has spoken of the crime which happened to her. She has told us of her suffering. She has told of the multiple indignities of not being taken seriously by the police.

She knows something that those of us who have experienced stranger rape do not know: she has the name of her assailant.

Let's say she names him, which I think she should do. What recourse does he have? To sue her for libel and slander would be foolish on his part, because truth is a defense and even if the criminal case might not be successful against him, the more probable than not standard of proof would save his former victim from having to pay out for ruining his reputation. I think we can see how sex abuse victims are coming forward all the time, even naming famous people who abused them, protected by their fame yet unable to bring such a suit because the allegations are true and they would be found out once and for all.

What seems to linger over a woman in this circumstance is the sense that she is "hysterical" or crazy or whatever. But the reality is that now she knows something secret about the power men have exercised in the world since the beginning of time, since the beginning of the species. She has learned about the danger they represent to her simply because of superior physical strength. Some will always abuse that power, but those few should be identified and one way or another rendered unable to offend again through public shaming, if not by the courts, then by the very process of letting the world know who they are.

The anonymous writer of both this post and this comment have been initiated into a form of knowledge that was very painful to receive, and may forever alter their perceptions. But it is part of reality. Let us wear our battle scars and teach others if it is possible to know the enemy and his tricks. Men must be tamed or they are worthless. This man was acting in a way that was feral. He should be found out for what he did.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I am grateful for the poster here (anonymous on Jan 30) who wrote about the work of Dr. David Lisak (available in summary and with copious references at Wikipedia).

He does not consider acquaintance rape to be non-rape. And his studies have shown such rapists to be serial offenders, like the ones behind bars for stranger rape. Taking and storing reports on such crimes does nothing to stop the outrageous attacks on young females.

Whether or not the DA can bring a case, the problem remains in the environment because such crimes are trivialized - except by their victims, who interestingly have very similar reactions to them which render them feeling unreal and anxious, as though they have found themselves in enemy territory. Is MIT to remain enemy territory for women? How many suicides in this society result from this kind of not so benign neglect of the injured parties?

Edmund Bertschinger over 8 years ago

Thank you for sharing a horrific story in order to help others. Faculty need to become more aware of sexual violence and the importance of their role in speaking up against it. You've started conversations we need to have. My heart goes out to you and all who have been hurt.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I am a staff member here on the MIT campus, and I do my best in all parts of my life to fight rape culture. I want to thank you, writer, for telling your story. I also want to express my relief and pride in the fact that nearly all the comments on this article are supportive, and well informed about the realities of rape culture. That's not something I often see in places where people can comment anonymously on articles like that, and it makes me feel like progress is being made, a little every day, in dismantling rape culture.

Daniel Jackson over 8 years ago

Your story is heartbreaking, and I too hope that you will find healing and peace, and that you will be strong again -- and maybe even, as Barbara suggested, stronger than before. As members of the MIT community, we all share the blame to some degree for what happened to you, and need to think hard about what we can each do to prevent such terrible things from happening.

A different comment to us as a community: I think we have become too accustomed to anonymity, and that MIT would be a happier and more supportive place with less of it. For the brave woman who wrote this piece, it makes perfect sense to want to remain anonymous. But for the rest of us, let's join Jeremy, Sofia, Kate, Barbara, and Edmund, and our president (in his message this morning), in helping to make MIT a place that values names above numbers, and in which we can all be confident to raise our voices.

Tenley McHarg '04 over 8 years ago

My heart breaks for you, writer, not only for the horrific experiences you've had these past few years but especially for the reaction you received when you first tried to seek support - I gasped when I read that part. You deserved to be heard, supported, and loved, and you didn't get that (many times over). I am SO sorry.

You are so brave to have reported the crime to so many people. And you are even braver to speak out again, after having been re-assaulted through the legal process (and risking backlash to this article). Thank you for caring so much about others, and yourself, to not pretend this didn't happen. Your voice is SO important. I am humbled and inspired by you.

I am so glad to see that your bravery is sparking action at the administrative level - but it will take more than policies to change this, so I hope and pray that the MIT community will take this opportunity to act too. What can we do to make sure that rape (and responses like the ones described above that often follow it) just isn't EVER ok?

Marie Caggiano over 8 years ago

Thank you to the author for having the courage to share this painful story.

Please keep in mind that although women are disproportionately affected, sexual violence and harassment can also be perpetrated against men. 10 of all rape victims are men and the number is likely to be under-reported. Male survivors often have an extremely difficult time understanding their experiences and finding support. More information at

Anonymous over 8 years ago

Please, please name that piece of sh, and make sure his career is ruined and he never stands a chance at a normal life. Let's see how the nih wants to fund a degenerate like this after he is publicly identified. I hope he has read this and is already living in a shadow of his self. He knows what he did and what kind of scum he is.

Colleen Rock over 8 years ago

I support you.

Kate Rudolph over 8 years ago

Thank you for sharing. I want to add my support to all the comments above, and I think you are unbelievably brave for opening up about this. I attended the BARCC seminar on responding to disclosures on Reg Day (see comment 2), and will continue to do everything I can to create a campus community that leaves no room for rape.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

As a man, a father of four, and a member of the MIT professional staff, I am horrified by your story, proud of you for speaking out and hopeful that you can recover, and enraged that the perpetrator presumably continues to walk among us. I cannot fathom how the administration cannot censure such a person, am surprised to not see mention of any process other than a criminal process. Maybe I'm missing something?

Anonymous over 8 years ago

10/jeremy-- you sound really apologetic about mit's rape culture and as a survivor, i really hope you know not to convey that to the survivors who come to you seeking the support of an RA. thank you for acknowledging this is a problem but please stop with your claims that the culture's not so bad and "i think i'd know if rape was this prevalent in those houses back then". protip: survivors don't like opening up to people who say that kind of thing and it's important for you as an RA to know that. eastside culture is very permissive of sexism, rape jokes, dismissing/questioning accounts of sexual violence, shunning survivors, siding with perpetrators, making survivors feel unsafe/unwelcome, etc and this is all an extension of the rape culture that permeates our whole society and campus. so i don't need to hear apologists refusing to acknowledge how that overarching rape culture exists and retraumatizes survivors every day of our lives.

it's great that people are putting sarah rankin's name out there but i know how hard it is to face the institutional process. i can vouch for VPR being an amazing and confidential resource that will be supportive of survivors whether they want to take action in terms of reporting the incident formally or focus on their own personal healing. much love to all the survivors on campus

Anonymous over 8 years ago

i know sometimes survivors are still worried about using MIT resources even though they're confidential so here are some other boston resources:

--boston area rape crisis center has a hotline and offers free counseling

--fenway health violence recovery program is specifically for LGBTQ people and offers free counseling

--the network/la red serves LGBTQ/BDSM/polyamorous communities and is a spanish/english bilingual anti-abuse organization that has a hotline short term counseling. if you're in those communities and you don't consider your experience of sexual violence to be abuse, they would still try to help with referrals

Wakefield '86 over 8 years ago

Dear Anonymous Author, I believe you!

Anonymous about 8 years ago

In my high school years, my boyfriend at the time had repeatedly sexually harassed me throughout the 2 years we were together. He "playfully" forced his penis in my mouth a couple times that was immediately followed by a hug. He would shove his hands down my pants and try to put them in my vagina. He would often miss and cause a lot of pain. My lack of experience made me confused about what I was experiencing. His antics afterwards made me confused about whether the "playfulness" made it okay. The fact that he was my boyfriend made it even more confusing to me. After 2 years of him constantly asking me for sex, I finally consented to fellatio. Did that mean I was no longer a victim? That I was now consenting to sex?

I now know that succumbing to that pressure is called coercion. I now know that I had the right to say no, especially if I didn't feel ready. But for years I was ashamed and I thought I was to blame for what had happened to me. I thought I was a powerful woman who could say no and never play the victim. Or was I just a drama queen wanting to play a victim?

I still doubt the situation in my head to this day. Even though it has been over 6 years since I have talked to him, I still have not fully recovered the confidence he took from me. Worst of all, I think this has taken away all the optimism that I had in my life. I am much more guarded and cynical, even though this isn't how I wanted to live my life.

I share my story long after the damage has been done. My closer friends now know what has happened to me, but my family and most of my colleagues still have no idea. I don't want them to, because I don't want to be defined by that moment in my life. I want to move on from it. Even though now I am plagued with disturbing rape dreams that you have described (almost to the tee), I am slowly recovering.

I want you to know that we're going to be okay and that we're going to rise so far above this throughout the remainder of our lives. :)

3 a fellow voice.