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The following material is a story of rape as told by the survivor, Nicole Huffman. She was the first storyteller on our platform.

I was a junior in high school when it happened.

We were at my mom’s house and she was upstairs. My little sister was home too.

I was really quiet, because I was really scared. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t want to be inconvenient to anybody. I didn’t realize it was sexual assault at the time.

He was someone trustworthy. He was so weird, so awkward, someone like me. I felt like he was genuine.

After it happened, I put the blame on myself. I didn’t talk about it until 2 years after, and even then, it wasn’t on my own terms. It was forced out of me by law enforcement in front of my mother and father.

However, after opening up about it, it was like breathing again.

A weight was off my chest. I became more comfortable talking about it when I learned that people so close to me were also experiencing what I had experienced. I didn’t feel so alone with a sense of community.

What I realized is that I can talk about what happened to me and provide support to others, which in turn feels like giving power back to myself. I’m gaining self-worth back by sharing my story. But survivors don’t owe anyone their testimonies in order to change a culture.

Being a sexual assault survivor gives me a unique vantage point to educate and empower those who’ve also been through it. College campus assault culture is, to put it simply, backwards. People, especially in the news, have the tendency to ask irrelevant questions.

Why was she walking home late at night?

Why didn’t she have someone come with her?

Why was she wearing what she was wearing?

As if somebody doesn’t reserve the right to walk home and not be attacked.

Survivor Nicole HuffmanWhen survivors speak up and create community, the abundance of stories can change the way society perceive victims. The phrase “I was sexually assaulted” should be treated like the crime testimonial that it is, and handled just like mugging and robberies are. Conversation about it can be easier to have if we spurn victim-blaming and stigma.

I believe the power to change this culture is really in the hands of the people, the listeners. Survivors have been telling their stories all along, but the culture can only change when people choose to listen.

People have the misconception that once you’re sexually assaulted, your life is ruined. For me, the rape hasn’t ruined my life– it’s just changed the course of it. Lots of survivors like myself find purpose in speaking out and demanding accountability. For me, sexual assault is just one happening in what will hopefully be a really long and really happy life.

And I will continue to work with survivors and supporters to create a world where the statistic that 1 in 4 women will be assaulted during their college career will be eradicated.

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