When it was over, he told me to stay. I was in shock. I was confused. We were in his fraternity house, blocks from my dorm. It was around 2:00 a.m. It was raining, and I knew I was too drunk to get home safely. He was sober and had the control. So, I stayed the night.
When I got home the next morning, my roommates were asleep, and I just stood in the shower and cried. I wanted to wash everything off of me. I knew I was sad. I knew I was scared. But it took time for me to know that I was raped.
That morning, I made an appointment with the student health center, but I cancelled it at the last minute. I was afraid they would realize I had been sexually assaulted, and that I would lose control over what happened next. I wasn’t educated on their reporting requirements and didn’t know if I would be forced to undergo tests or a rape kit. I was afraid they would blame me. I was already blaming myself.
It took me a long time to identify with the word “rape.” It was clear I was in no state to consent to any activity that night — let alone sex — but I still blamed myself. I knew what he did was wrong, but for a while I would only say I was "taken advantage of.” Eventually, I mentioned to a friend what had happened to me, and he said, “So, he raped you.” Even then I questioned it, still afraid to use what I thought at the time was such a strong word.
The following March I was home for spring break, and the Steubenville Trial was happening. I saw the reactions on social media, the people claiming that it was the victim’s fault for drinking; for dressing a certain way; for “putting herself in that situation.” I started drawing parallels between the news and my own experiences, and decided it was time for me to take action.
I am calling on lawmakers to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act of 2015 (CASA), which is meant to hold schools accountable, provide support services for students, increase transparency, and establish procedures to better respond to sexual violence.
But taking action isn't easy, and I realized the perpetrator was not the only problem — it was also the process. The week before graduation, I wrote an op-ed in the school paper detailing how the university handled my case, and I questioned the integrity of the policies in place.
The many steps I took to make sure my story was heard moved the conversation forward, but it's not enough. That’s why I've created a Change.org petition to demand that my university — and all campuses across the U.S.— establish clear responsibilities and create comprehensive policies for preventing and responding to sexual violence.
I am calling on lawmakers to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act of 2015 (CASA), which is meant to hold schools accountable, provide support services for students, increase transparency, and establish procedures to better respond to sexual violence. The legislation would expand transparency requirements, create a system of confidential advisors on campus who can provide help and support to students following an assault, and establish minimum training standards for on-campus personnel. It would also ban the practice of letting athletic departments investigate allegations against their own players, and require new campus resources and support services for student survivors.
You'd think that, given the number of sexual assaults that occur on campuses across the country, a common sense law like CASA would have passed by now. You'd think a lot of things would happen after a sexual assault on campus, but you'd be wrong. I encourage those reading my story, and other stories like mine, to take action. When you see someone in a risky situation, step in. When you learn of a policy that doesn’t make sense ask questions. We can all do better — and we can all take steps to prevent sexual assault on campus.
Bustle has reached out to Maya's university for comment on her case, but has not heard back.
Bustle has partnered with MTV’s Elect This to spotlight individuals like Maya who are taking the issues that matter into their own hands this election cycle. To find out more about how you can vote to elect gender equality in the 2016 election, visit gender.electthis.com.
Images: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle