It all started when I chose to attend Frostburg State University for my undergraduate studies. It was a compromise of sorts; my Father wanted me close to home, while there was enough distance to allow me the chance to flourish and be on my own. I knew the moment I stepped on-campus that I was where I wanted to be. I saw my first day as a chance to adopt a clean slate; a new me in the sense that I could leave the quiet girl I was, all through school, behind. Eventually, I had even hoped she would become a distant memory and fade away all together. In time she did as I became involved in the campus and community. Joining the Student Government Association (SGA) offered me so many opportunities to voice the concerns of my constituents and be the voice of reason when students were being overlooked and not advocated for.
It is easy to get caught up, stressed out, and ultimately lose sight of the reason why you get up every day and do what you do. I tried to instill the value of remaining in touch with what our mission was, that way our group or administration’s vision never vanished and the students were not neglected. I adopted this concept from my Father. He always pushed for me to do my best, and never get off track of where I wanted to end up in life. But how do you know where you are supposed to end up? I pondered this question for many years until I knew. Attending college only opened my eyes further to the world that was being damaged with discrimination. Each generation faces different demons. Today, Gays and Lesbians are fighting for a right that many couples take for granted; marriage. Students from inner-city schools are looking for that helping hand that could lead them to a better life; earning an education. I thought I had found my calling in public office. I figured I coul d make my difference by going down this path. Yet, in the last semester of my senior year, my train derailed from the fast track of politics and headed down a dark tunnel of confusion and despair. I no longer knew what I wanted in life. I was no longer certain of my future.
I was raped on February 27th, 2013. Even then, writing that word sends chills down my spine. Never would I think something like that could or would ever happen to me. After all, my Father a Maryland State Trooper raised me to know how to be safe. He instilled in me “street smarts”, however, that was not enough to save me from a reality that is plaguing many college women. Truth is, it was someone I knew, or well at least I thought I knew. The months that followed left me broken. I reported the crime, to the police and school, yet my attacker remained at school until a few weeks before I graduated. It took three months for him to be suspended from the campus, not expelled. I started as being SGA President, thinking I did the right thing by coming forward-that I was leading by example for all women to follow. Yet, in the end I was feeling eerily like Hester Prynne. The Scarlet Letter could never prepare me for the humiliation I felt. I should have stood in the middle of campus and adorned a scarlet “A” on my chest for Accuser. My life seemed to spiral out of control. I thought about law school last year, and I applied but unfortunately I never went. I had a trial scheduled for October, and my case was settled never went to court. This sadly is not the truth for just me. My life was put on hold. My dreams were hindered by one terrible night. Many women face this tragic certainty. I grew up believing in a justice system where my Dad, the police officer, caught the “bad guys”. Then through my five year old eyes it appeared perfect. But as a scared 20 year old, I was let down by the justice system I once believed in, and I quickly slipped through the cracks in its flaws.
In the war on sexual violence, many people are close minded and believe that a rapist is lurking behind the bushes. To the contrary he is the one you trust. Maybe a friend. Or maybe he is just an acquaintance. Nowadays weapons used to force a victim, are no longer knives or guns. They are alcohol and drugs. America has turned a blind eye once again. How can we wage a battle and win if people are misinformed or even unaware of what is happening? We are turning our backs on a growing pandemic. One in five women will be sexually assaulted at college. I became a statistic. My story became a testament of what it is like for many women in the world. But at the end of the very dark tunnel, I found the light. A light that made me iridescent. I want to be that attorney for the women who lose their voice. I want to fight for them when no one else will. A university that I dedicated my life to, in the classroom and the community, lost me. I was one less believer and supporter they had s tanding behind them and everything they stood for. I graduated early because I was no longer proud to be an FSU Bobcat. After being asked what I wore, what my GPA was, and if I was sure about what had happened that night, I knew I could not go another day at a place that did not believe in me or support me when I needed them the most. My attorney pled my case out because she was not accustomed “to dealing with adults”. In all aspects, society had let me down. I was left with no peace of mind or sliver of integrity. I found myself wandering aimlessly, looking for support and hope. I was filled with so many questions, but after endless nights of staring at my ceiling, I concluded that there was only one answer.
If I wanted to change what was happening I had to choose to act, and not be a bystander. I could no longer hope and pray that someone would show up and be my knight in shining armor. I had be the savior for those women who needed one. I chose to reignite a passion in me, leading me to create Peacocks in Pearls. I hope through this organization, so many women will get the chance to learn and grow, and that we can stand beside each other and together we can create a new frontier for women to have a voice. To not be silent. We can create a society where women are encouraged to speak. To be brave and strong, to feel empowered to follow their dreams. To not be victims, nor survivors, but instead WARRIORS.