Becky's (OG Jane Doe's) Story
It was the night before my 19th birthday—a warm Friday night in mid-September.
I was going out that night to begin celebrating. I’d heard that a fraternity party was going on that night, and I was excited to go. It was the fraternity’s bid day party and the theme was “America.”
I donned a vermilion fit-and-flare dress, and—like a good Southern sorority girl—pearls. I looked in the mirror and decided I was Jackie O. that night. I felt pretty comfortable in my own skin and confident leaving the house—little did I know this would be the last time I would be content with my body image for years.
I met up with a group of friends for a “pregame,” at which I had maybe half a dos equis and a shot of vodka. We headed to the party, where things turned up pretty quickly. It was a backyard party, dimly lit with patio and string lights. It was warm and remarkably humid out—I think it might have rained the day before. I had told several of my friends I was going to this party, and I remember watching them trickle in as the evening went on.
I’d wanted this to be my first “classic college” birthday with a power hour. I wanted to get drunk, have fun with my friends, maybe make out with a cute boy, and wake up the next day with a hangover. That was it. And, for the first hour and a half, that goal seemed to have been met. I remember several shots of flavored vodka—one birthday cake flavored, one lemon flavored (which tasted like Pinesol, but that’s neither here nor there), and one vanilla flavored. I had some of the fraternity’s signature punch (a mixture of Gatorade and Everclear, I’m told) and attempted (failed) to shotgun a beer. I remember becoming ill after shotgunning; in fact, I quickly projectile vomited.
Upon seeing me projectile vomit, some of the guys in the fraternity walked up to me and offered me cups of punch—one after the other, saying “here, drink this, it’ll make you feel better.” This didn’t faze me; it was like they were offering crackers and water to soothe my upset stomach—except instead of crackers and water, it was a mixture of Gatorade and everclear. That was nice and thoughtful of them, I thought. One of those drinks, I’d later learn, was likely laced with a sedative.
The clock hit midnight and, after a countdown with my friends, I made out with someone to celebrate turning 19. I remember hearing someone say, “damn, this girl really knows how to throw down for her birthday.” I was given another shot and some more punch to celebrate.
By about… 12:20 or so, I was completely inebriated and out of control. I’d said and done things I’d later have to apologize for, and at this point I was literally falling over and unable to complete a sentence. In hindsight, this is really where the night should’ve ended.
I remember meeting a guy, whose name I won’t reveal. We made out and went inside, where I ran to the bathroom and became extremely ill for quite a while. We went into a bedroom, and I remember him telling me it was his room (it wasn’t). Here is what I (admittedly, very drunkenly) consented to with this individual: making out, fingering, and oral sex. I remember (as does he, per the records) explicitly saying “I don’t want to have sex tonight; I want to stay a virgin; please don’t have sex with me; I know I don’t have much control right now because I’m drunk so just saying, if you have sex with me, I will sue you.” He said he understood. I still had my dress on because I felt like keeping it on would reinforce the predetermined boundary I set. We argued about whether or not I should keep my dress and bra on. After that, everything went black.
I woke up alone a few hours later in a pool of my own blood. I was naked and in excruciating pelvic pain. My whole body was sore, and I did not know why. The light in the room had been left on. I gathered all my belongings I could find: my dress, my bra, and my purse. I put on my bra and dress and prepared to walk home. My underwear and pearls had vanished. I’d never see them again.
As I emerged from the bedroom, I noticed that all the lights in the house were on and every guest had left. It appeared I was the only person left on the property. I remember still feeling sick to my stomach. After standing up and walking a few feet within the house, I began vomiting uncontrollably in the frat house—all over the carpet, couches, and eventually crawled my way to their kitchen sink. The vomit did not look normal, even for a “particularly lit” night out; it was completely clear and had splotches of blood in it.
I began the walk home. I was stumbling down a dark road alone, disheveled, still bleeding, without underwear, praying I wouldn’t get stopped by the police. I remember looking at my phone and reading dozens of concerned texts from my friends wondering where I’d gone. I texted only a few back saying “got taken advantage of” before passing out again.
Several hours later, I awoke in my bed. It was my birthday, but I was far from feeling celebratory. More concerned texts from friends hit my phone. I explained that I woke up alone in a bed not knowing what had happened. I felt disgusting, like I needed to clean my body—so I did. I took a shower. I remember seeing blood trickle down my legs; I was in a world of pain. The shower didn’t make me feel cleaner: as I reflected on my nakedness I noticed bite marks that had broken my skin, boil-type marks (burns?) on my thighs, and abrasions. Walking was painful. What the hell happened to me? I felt engulfed with apprehension. Did I want to know?? All I remembered was being fingered; was this normal? Why was I bleeding so much?
I told my roommates what I could remember. I wanted reassurance that it wasn’t the worst of my fears. I remember telling them, “I mean, I said I didn’t want to have sex. I was super clear about that. So if he had sex with me, it’s rape. And like, no one would do that. Right??” To which they both responded, “yeah no, there’s no way, no one would be able to get away with that kind of thing here.” I didn’t think it possible that someone at Baylor could be capable of doing that to anyone. I had the perception that rape was exclusively committed by gross-looking predators, lurking in alleys and parks at night. No way could this happen at a friendly Baylor fraternity party, I thought. I must’ve just been fingered super hard. I met up with one of the friends who accompanied me at the party and told her all I could remember. I didn’t remember having sex, so I wasn’t sure if I should take Plan B. Because of misinformation we had about Plan B (that if you took it once and needed to take it years down the line, your body would be immune to it, etc), I decided not to take it at the time. I talked to a few friends in the fraternity to figure out what happened and even got the name of the individual I went into the room with. I messaged him on facebook asking if we’d had sex the night before, and he said “I don’t remember sex happening. Don’t worry.” I breathed a sigh of relief and went about my day, trying to enjoy my birthday despite the pelvic pain. That evening I went to dinner with my friends, who asked me about the night before. I tried to laugh it off, saying, “yeah I guess I got a little too sauced, better be more careful next time.” My friends then led me to a surprise party, which had been orchestrated by my older brother, who was a senior at Baylor at the time. It was a pretty wholesome evening.
I went home with my big and talked to her about the night before. I felt this haunting feeling that something more had happened than just fingering. I remember breaking down and crying as she said, “something’s wrong here. I know you think no one would do that but… maybe you should get checked out.” I didn’t want to; I thought ignorance would be bliss (in hindsight, it probably was). I went to church on Sunday morning--September 15. I remember the worship band played a contemporary version of “It Is Well with My Soul.” It broke me; I buckled down in tears. I was overwhelmed with shame and guilt and this feeling that there was more to that night than I remembered. I knew in my heart that something was very wrong. It was not well with my soul. The people sitting around me left me kind notes, which I’ve kept; they’re still stored in my bible to this day. As I sat doubled over in sadness, I heard a voice say, “the shame isn’t yours; it’s not what you did, it’s what was done TO you.” I contend to this day that this was a divine experience and that it was the voice of the Lord. As soon as I got home from church, my big called me. “Becky. I’ve been thinking a lot about what you told me, and I think something awful happened to you in that room last night. You need to go to a doctor right now.” I took that as a confirmation of what I was pretty sure God told me that morning. I made an affirmative decision to seek medical care and phoned my brother about it. Neither one of us had any idea where to begin to “get checked;” I had never heard of a rape kit or SANE exam--in my mind, I was just getting a physical to confirm that the only things that happened to me were the things I remembered. He went with me as we tried three different places: the university health center, a women’s health clinic, and an urgent care center. None of these places offered the services I described for alleged sexual assault victims, and I was struck that none of them--until the third stop, Urgent Care--even referred me to the right place to go for a sexual assault exam. I remember standing at the front desk at Urgent Care when they told me “we don’t do that here” and breaking down in tears, exacerbated and ready to give up on getting any sort of medical care. The nurses were very understanding and told me that the title of what I was describing was a SANE exam and that it could only be done at an emergency room. So my brother and I proceeded to what was then Hillcrest Hospital. At this point, we weren’t sure I’d been assaulted yet, and my brother was impatient, so he called a friend for a ride home. I walked up to the ER counter myself and told them I thought I’d been assaulted--in hindsight, I’m impressed by how brave I was for doing so.
They told me that once I checked in to the ER with a sexual assault claim, no one would be able to find me there; they couldn’t tell anyone I was a patient and it “would be as if I was never there.” I was incredibly relieved by that. I wanted to go this alone. I was in triage with two healthcare workers when my mom called. I picked up and said “oh hey mom! Yeah, just at dinner with friends!!” I saw the workers exchange a glance as I was clearly not being honest with my mother about where I was or why I was there. During intake, I blurted out, “you don’t understand; my parents cannot find out about this. Don’t bill my insurance, I’ll see if I can pay out of pocket.” The workers were clearly concerned by this but didn’t pry. I was offered the options of having a sexual assault advocate and police officer meet me. I agreed.
The officer asked me to tell him what happened. I did. Then, he asked me to write it down. “I don’t want anyone to get in trouble,” I said--and it was true. I wanted this to be as quick and painless as possible; it was probably nothing anyway. I didn’t want to borrow trouble if I wasn’t sure I’d been assaulted. The officer told me that writing it down before undergoing the SANE exam would give them a clearer and more objective picture of what happened two nights prior if I did decide to report. “I mean even if something happened, I’m not reporting, I don’t want any trouble.” The officer and I quibbled about this for a bit, and I reluctantly wrote down everything I could remember from two nights before. I’d have to recount what happened pretty much every time a new person entered the room--the attending, an insurance person, the officer, a nurse. It was clear that I was out of my depth in what to expect; they asked me why I took a shower, why I used the restroom after, and told me I was supposed to bring the clothes I was assaulted in. I was a bit miffed by those questions. Like, excuse me? Is there some sort of guide for girls who think they might have been assaulted but aren’t totally sure and really just want a pelvic exam to confirm nothing really bad happened? “No, I didn’t know I was supposed to bring my clothes, but I’ll be sure to keep that in mind for the next time this happens!” I harped back. The officer snickered and said, “I like this one. She reminds me of my daughter. Spunky.” I waited a bit in the bed and talked to the officer and Brandi, my advocate, about their lives and their families. I was in good spirits until I was told they were ready for me in the SANE exam room.
I was then led into a separate room for the SANE exam. I didn’t really know what to expect.
Because I wanted to cooperate fully, I consented to having photos taken of my body for the duration of the SANE exam. Having changed into a hospital gown, I laid down into a sterile hospital bed with stirrups its foot. Above me, a ceiling mobile of purple butterflies swayed. I remember making a snarky comment about it: “oh nice! These butterflies are really taking my mind off the fact that I might’ve been raped this weekend.” The nurse and advocate chuckled. Our shared laughter in what was going to be the worst night of my life was a light to me. That was the most jovial mood would be in that room that night.
Most of the exam was swabbing me head to toe; the SANE nurse took photos of my naked body as she took cotton swabs for DNA from my legs, breasts, arms, back, hands, neck, face, chest. I didn’t mind this. Then I was told I would undergo a pap smear, which I’d never even heard of. They explained it was a pelvic exam and Brandi winced as she said, “…it’s generally not the most pleasant experience.” That was an understatement given my condition. I was still extremely sore and still bleeding; I’d walked with a limp. I put my feet in the metal stirrups and prepared for the pelvic exam. The SANE nurse placed cold metal forceps inside me; I recall howling in pain as my eyes watered and my body clenched itself. My back arched, and I looked up past the butterflies to the ceiling tiles and lights above me, trying to count them in spite of my tear-blurred eyesight. I remember the pain was so palpable that I let out another cry every time the SANE nurse moved the forceps or swabbed. Over the sounds of my shrieks, I heard snaps from the camera, muddled responses from the nurse and Brandi (who was now holding my hand) reassuring me that I was “doing so well,” and that it would all be over soon. But they were wrong—it wouldn’t all be over soon.
I’ll never forget how much I’d hoped that the SANE nurse would tell me nothing serious had happened, how naively I clung to that hope through the entire procedure, and how shattered I felt when the SANE nurse looked me in the eye and told me she’d found significant signs of sexual assault. “I’m so sorry, Rebekah. They were so rough with you. There’s definitely semen inside you, and there’s no way you were only fingered.” As if that wasn’t enough to take in, she added that she didn’t think it could’ve possibly been one person because of the amount of semen, amount of tearing, amount of blood, and how mutilated my body was; I remember the words “remarkably unorthodox” uttered to me. I’d gone to the hospital that night thinking I would be assured in the fact that when I was drunk, someone fingered me—that’s all I remembered, and that was all I’d hoped had happened. Imagine you thought you’d had a relatively innocent pseudo-sexual encounter with one guy and being informed that, while you were sleeping, multiple men had sex with and mutilated your unconscious body. I was in denial at first. “That’s not possible,” I said. “If someone had sex with me there’s no way I wouldn’t have woken up or remembered it.” The nurse replied that it was possible, and that it happened pretty often. “Is it possible maybe I woke up and drunkenly agreed to have sex with someone?” At this point, I was more willing to accept that I’d agreed to this than that someone disregarded my humanity and raped me that night. The nurse and advocate unanimously said “probably not,” as they explained that if I’d been that drunk, I couldn’t have consented, and that they suspected “foul play” because of the marks on my body. (It’s worth noting here that once the DNA came back, the semen didn’t belong to the guy I went into the room with). “Foul play,” they elaborated, meant they suspected someone had drugged me for the purposes of raping me while I was unconscious.
I was shell-shocked. Undone.
I remember becoming hysterical, my legs still in stirrups, weeping. I cried more intensely than I’d ever cried in my entire life; I could’ve filled a bucket with the volume of my tears. I couldn’t seem to turn it off. For over an hour, I wept so hard that the only sentences I could physically articulate were “I—I hate them. I hate these guys so much” and “my body is ruined, no man will ever want to marry me, I—I wanted to stay a virgin” through my sobs and on repeat. I noticed pangs in my head from crying so hard and for so long—I was physically exhausted from weeping. In hindsight, I wonder what the officer, SANE nurse, and hospital workers were thinking. I refused to be comforted. I refused to drink water. I refused to eat the saltines they’d offered me.
And I was angry—filled with indignation that someone could do this to me. I wanted them to go to jail for this. I wanted to know that the streets of Waco and walkways of Baylor were free of the monsters who’d done this to me. I had made the decision to report, and I contemplated what this meant in terms of keeping this all a secret from my parents. I was sure they’d be extremely disappointed in me for getting raped. I’d been drinking under-aged, after all, and my parents have always strict about drinking in general. I wondered if I could go through a trial without my parents finding out. In hindsight, it’s so silly that “keeping this from my parents” was my biggest concern in the midst of all that was happening.
Once it was clear I was too exhausted to continue sobbing, the officer asked me if I was going to tell my parents. “Do I have to?” I asked. “You don’t need to, but as a father myself and someone who’s seen some things, I can attest that your family will be there for you throughout your life—they’re the only constant you have.” I knew he was right, so I resolved to tell my parents. I went ahead and got all the medical treatment I needed before doing so: I took a pill to prevent chlamydia, received an injection to prevent gonorrhea, Diflucan to prevent a yeast infection, and I made sure to take the emergency contraceptive they provided before calling my parents because I knew they’d try to talk me out of taking Plan B (I was right about that one).
I picked up my phone, which I had to wipe off because it was drenched in tears. My dad has always been pretty protective over me. I didn’t want to be the one to have to tell him I’d been raped, so taking a deep breath, I dialed my mom. No answer. I called again; my dad answered her phone. I hung up. I called again. Dad answered again. I told him I needed to talk to mom, to which he replied, “anything you can tell her you can tell me; just spit it out. What’s going on??” I remember how ridiculous I felt in those moments. Am I going to do this? Am I really about to tell my dad I was raped before anyone else?! I managed to say, “Dad, I—I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. I, uh, I—I’m in the hospital.” Then I hung up. At this point my parents were justifiably concerned. My dad promptly called back multiple times. I texted him saying things like “I don’t know how to say it. I’m just so sorry. I love you, and I’m sorry.” When I finally answered the fourth call back from my dad, I blurted out, “I… I was raped. I’m so sorry. But I’m in the hospital and I was raped.” I could overhear my dad, still on the phone with me, whispering to my mom in the background, who I assume just reentered the room. “She got raped,” I heard him whisper. “What?!” I heard my mom reply in the background. “Becky. Got. Raped. She’s in the hospital.” As I remained on the line, my parents’ shock seemed palpable to me. Then a soft, “…were you drinking?” was the next response. I felt tears begin rolling down my cheek again. “Yah, uh… a little.” I responded. Then I hung up. I made a decision to respond exclusively via text that night, and that’s a decision I don’t regret. I texted my parents saying “Please put your disappointment in me aside. I’m really dealing with a lot and I just need you to love me right now.” They responded, “OK.” To this day, I contend that disclosing my rape to my parents and sharing this tragedy with them have been the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
After telling my parents, I texted a few of my friends and sorority sisters that I was in the ER, that I’d been raped, and that I’d reported to the police. I appeared to remain calm, but I was far from it; I just knew I had a long night ahead of me and couldn’t waste invaluable time sulking. I was discharged from the hospital at 8:51 pm, but I felt like I’d been there all night. Because I hadn’t brought the clothes I was raped in to the emergency room, I agreed to meet the police officer with a bag of my clothes and then show him the house where it happened. As I handed him the bag of evidence, all he said was “I’m really, really mad at your friends who took you to the party.” I nodded slowly; I understood his anger, but I felt it was misplaced—why wasn’t he madder at the men who’d raped me? Was this just something to be expected for drunk girls at parties, and the only thing that can rescue us from the inevitability of guys raping drunk girls is a group of friends? What does that say about the expectations these officers have of college-aged men? What does that say about how seriously we take these crimes?
I then met with my sorority’s executive board, a team of women who were genuinely concerned, upset, and sympathetic about my plight. We resolved that the man I remember taking me into the room that night (who, at the time, I’d assumed had been behind my rape) would be uninvited to our sorority’s upcoming events and resolved that I’d attend counseling. The president, who happened to be my grandbig, along with my big, would go with me. I was so thankful to not be alone. I went home and packed an overnight bag and prepared to meet my parents and brothers at a hotel.
My hometown of Kingwood (a suburb of Houston) is about 3.5 hours from Waco, where I’d been waiting for them. My parents and brothers made it to Waco in about 2.5 hours. That was a record pace. I couldn’t believe how fast they had come for me. One of the hardest memories I have—possibly the hardest memory I will ever have—was walking up to the hotel lobby to meet my parents after telling them I had been raped.
I entered the corridor and saw my parents. At this point, I set my personal emotions aside. I approached my dad—my closest friend, my biggest cheerleader, my primary protector; he was 6’4 and the wisest, smartest, most admirable man I knew—and embraced him in the hotel lobby. My father began weeping in my arms over what happened to me. I remember feeling stone cold—as if my soul had left my body—as I held him and listened to him cry. I was numb, reactionless, frozen. I didn’t cry with him; I held him and stood still. My mother ushered us into our suite. We talked a bit about the assault, and to be completely candid, I don’t remember much about this discussion. My mom said something about wishing she’d been in Waco and that she’d never forgive herself, and we hugged; I remember her tearfully saying she didn’t understand; she always thought if she just prayed that God would protect her children, they would be safe from things like this. I excused myself to the room’s restroom, where I sobbed alone so they wouldn’t see me. I felt terrible for putting this weight on my parents. I felt like I’d done this to them.
The night that would pass would imprint on my memory forever.
I stayed in the hotel room with my parents that night. I couldn’t sleep. I laid in a hotel bed parallel to my parents and listened to my mother and father sob—together and separately—all. night. long. Routinely, I’d use the restroom and find myself still bleeding profusely. I was still in excruciating pain. But that wasn’t the point at the time; the focus, in my mind, was being there for my parents, who were dealing with the fact that their daughter had been raped. So I listened, silently, as my parents sobbed throughout the night about what had happened to their daughter two nights before.
After about 6 hours of this, nearing the crack of dawn, I realized I had midterms and papers due the coming week. There’s no way I can go to class the next few days, my life has been turned upside down, and midterms are the LAST thing on my mind, I thought. So, being sleep-deprived and emotionally numb, I drafted a candid email to each of my professors explaining that, although I had been working hard in their classes to prepare for the week, unfortunately I had been brutally raped this weekend and wasn’t sure when I would feel safe returning to campus to take their midterms.
Later that morning, I left my parents for a few hours to attend a counseling session. My sweet Big and Grandbig sat in the waiting room with me and held my hands as I waited to be seen. The counseling session itself was pretty standard; in addition to a therapy session, we also discussed my options within Baylor for reporting. They told me that the Baylor judicial affairs process would be easier to navigate than the criminal one and that a finding of “responsible” could assist in a criminal prosecution later on. I opted to receive care from the Baylor counseling center; to coordinate with the Vice President for Student Life about my options regarding class attendance, professor communications, scheduling, and generally avoiding the man I thought I knew was involved in the assault; to file an official complaint with Baylor Judicial Affairs; and to file a formal report with Baylor Police in addition to Waco Police. The Vice President of Student Life was incredibly warm and helpful to me, and the woman assigned my case at Baylor PD was very kind, patient, and understanding of my plight. I volunteer these details upfront because, as you may know (and will learn), what happened to me and Baylor’s response to sexual assault would later explode as a scandal on the national stage; while Baylor would wholly mishandle my assault in other aspects, I think it’s important to note that it isn’t entirely black and white. With that said, at this time, I had to file a complaint with “Judicial Affairs” because Baylor didn’t have a Title IX office at the time—despite the Department of Education specifically instructing Baylor to have a Title IX office two years prior in 2011. This ends up being a significant detail because Judicial Affairs would be unable to provide the scope of resources and response offered by Title IX.
I met my parents for lunch at the local Chuy’s to see them off; their moods had shifted from mournful to angry—my dad’s indignation was palpable. He wanted justice. I remember asking him who he was mad at and he abruptly said “everyone. I’m furious with everyone who could’ve been involved in this.” In hindsight, this was probably the most appropriate reaction to what had happened to date, and intimidated, I nodded sheepishly. I hugged my parents goodbye and returned to my apartment.
I remember sitting on my bed, looking at the folder given to me at the hospital; for the first time since I entered the hospital, I was all alone. The whirlwind of reporting and counseling sessions and concerned parties had stilled. I was just alone, and I had been raped. I went downstairs to deadbolt the door, but it didn’t make me feel any safer; I wasn’t safe in my apartment. I wasn’t safe in my room. I wasn’t safe on campus. I wasn’t safe in my car, or with my friends, or at the hospital—because I wasn’t safe in my own body. I remained in my room for a few days, alone, knowing I was unsafe. I didn’t sleep. I wondered if my attackers knew I reported them and if they would kill me. Every time I heard a sound, I was pretty certain I was going to be attacked again as a punishment for snitching. If they were willing to rape me, what’s stopping them from killing me out of retaliation for telling on them? Do they draw the ethical line at murder, but think rape isn’t a bad? Will their murder of me be as morbid and unorthodox as their rape of me? In the coming days, the trauma would rear its ugly head: I would think I saw my attackers out of the corner of my eye everywhere I went. When I would turn to look, I’d see an inanimate object or nothing at all. I’m going insane, I thought. This event didn’t just take my body and privacy away, it also stole my sanity.
I met with the detective on my case. She wouldn’t tell me much. That would become a theme of our interactions; she thought I couldn’t handle knowing what evidence they’d found and that it would just make things worse for me to know, which was honestly pretty patronizing. I went to counseling. Any time I went to counseling or a Judicial Affairs meeting or met with the detective, they’d say something like, “you seem to be doing really well, given the circumstances!” I never knew how to take that. Were they casting doubt on my claim because I wasn’t acting enough like a “rape victim”? Was I supposed to be constantly crying in public? Jump out of my seat every time I heard a noise? Was I not traumatized enough?
I’d kept my then-best friend in the loop about everything and told her I was moving forward with reporting, that there would probably be a trial, and that I needed a friend by my side through it all. She was supportive for about 4 days. One night, I got a text from her saying she just couldn’t do it, that being my friend was too much to ask, and that we should end our friendship. Before I could respond, she’d blocked my number, and blocked me on facebook, instagram, and twitter. I’d never felt more betrayed in my life. We’d been best friends throughout freshman year, we’d pledged our sorority together, and were completely inseparable. The next day, with the knowledge that I was truly all alone in this and that I couldn’t trust anyone, I tried to take my own life. I mentioned something cryptic to my big and roommate and sorority sister in reference when they asked how I was doing. Standing in my room, I wondered about stabbing myself, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it; I wasn’t brave enough. I grabbed a pair of manicure scissors with curved ends and resolved to slice a vein in my wrist. I began cutting myself, working my way towards the vein to ease into it. I’d sliced my arm six times before I heard a knock on my door and frantic running up the stairs. My roommate came home and stopped me. My big and our sorority standards chair came too. We talked about mental health options and they informed me that my parents were already on their way. I was so embarrassed and angry. My parents were disappointed in me.
At the time, I really wished I’d gone through with it. I truly didn’t want to live anymore, but I wanted everyone off my back, so I promised to never attempt suicide again. I’d spend the rest of that school year wishing I’d been successful in my suicide attempt. Things would get much, much worse for me.
After two weeks, I returned to campus. It didn’t take long for gossip about what happened to me to get out. I had told my circle of friends and some sorority sisters, and apparently the entire fraternity found out as soon as I reported because the officer had gone to the house to collect evidence. That combination, I think, set it off. Very few people asked me what happened; I think they were scared to. But everyone in my social circles seemed to have an opinion about it. At first, it seemed like people either didn’t believe me or thought I wanted it. My primary focus wasn’t people’s opinions though, I chalked it all up to gossip, although I did feel exposed and embarrassed. Instead, I focused on school, which had been on the backburner for me. I had missed two weeks of class during midterms. I had at least one test and paper past due for each of my classes, several quizzes I needed to makeup—all on top of the current workload in front of me, which I felt was extremely difficult to concentrate on and immerse myself in itself. This was a difficult piece of the trauma for me: previously, I was an excellent student, loved school, and went above and beyond in my work; I had a cumulative 4.0 at the time. I wanted that back but couldn’t find it. I’d try to read for class and find myself unable to recall anything I’d read on a given page. I found myself unable to pay attention in class. I would try to write a paper, and I couldn’t get words on the page; when I did, they made little sense. I ended up dropping two classes to reduce my course load to twelve hours. The rest of that semester is frankly a blur to me. I remember going to bed at 3am each night and waking up at 7am to catch up on homework. I was making up the tests, homework, quizzes, and papers until the very last day of the exam period in December. It felt like a marathon of work, and my professors seemed genuinely proud of me. I’m extremely grateful for how accommodating they were to my situation. My Portuguese professor and I would sit in her office and talk and cry about it. One of my medical humanities professors would pray with me outside of class and help me talk through it for the duration of the semester. My political science professor met with me to talk about it every now and then, as did my history professor. I’m still in touch with a few of them; I truly feel like my Baylor professors carried me through.
Having submitted my last final in December 2013, I took note of a few things. First, I’d definitely gained weight, probably 20 pounds. But I was terrified to go to the gym for fear that I would run into one of my rapists, and my eating habits were, well, that of a college kid. Second, I realized it had been over three months since my last period; I hadn’t had one since before the rape. Sheer panic set it. I looked up Plan B’s effectiveness rate and became even more alarmed: it only prevented 7 out of 8 would-be pregnancies. That’s a 17.5% margin of error, and my luck this semester has been pretty bad--what if I’m in the 17.5%?! What if I have to carry my rapist’s baby and everyone thinks I’m promiscuous? What if I get attached and putting it up for adoption is too hard for me? What if they sue for custody? Before going home, I stopped at a Walmart in the next town over. I bought multiple pregnancy tests and spent the afternoon drinking water and Dr. Pepper and peeing on different tests. The first one came out “unclear,” the next few were “negative” and then one turned up a positive result. I stayed in my room that night. I actually accepted the fact that I was probably pregnant and began to google “Christian adoptive parents.” In hindsight, this might’ve been an overreaction. I went to a doctor a few days later and he confirmed I was not, in fact, pregnant, and that if you don’t adhere to the directions on the box, results can be distorted and come out unclear; some cheaper or newer tests had “glitches” or that depending on medication combinations could turn out false positives. Pretty big fucking glitch, I thought.
Fast forward to late February/early March 2014. I got a call from my detective saying my rape kit had been processed. It took six months to hear anything about it. The call was short. “We have the results from the rape kit. The semen found does not match that of the accused (the guy who I went into the room with that night). With no other leads, there’s not much more we can do. We’re suspending the investigation for now.” I didn’t get a word in besides “thank you” before she hung up. I was incredibly relieved, to be honest. I was bracing myself for this exhausting and traumatizing trial and it felt like I’d been released from that burden. I called the head of Judicial Affairs, who I hadn’t seen in months, and told her I was dropping my complaint against the guy who took me into the room and that it had been someone else. I could finally begin moving on with my life, I thought.
Not so. Imagine knowing you were raped by a group of anonymous men but had no idea who they were or exactly what they did to you while you were unconscious. Almost every night, I’d wake up from a nightmare of what could’ve happened in that room that night. Were they Baylor students? Members of the fraternity? People I knew? Strangers? Was it a group of homeless men? Did a crew of local sociopaths just come in and find me and rape me? Was this a satanic cult ritual? Why was I bleeding so much? Had they penetrated me with foreign objects? If so, what type of foreign object? A knife? Cigarettes? Why were the bite marks so deep? Were they trying to see if I’d wake up? Were they experimenting on me? Some of those thoughts seemed ridiculous, but my dreams didn’t discriminate; I’d be tormented with the possibilities of what could have happened that night. When I’d go out in public and a man would make eye contact with me for longer than a second, I’d wonder, are you one of them? Have you been inside me? What did you do to me? Suddenly, everyone was a suspect in my mind. Nowhere was safe. No one was safe.
Things would get worse for me from there. Because the DNA didn’t match the accused, the dialogue from members of the fraternity was that I made a false accusation. That wasn’t really the case: it was a mistaken accusation, not a false one; the very last person in the room with me was that particular guy. The new information indicated that I passed out, he left, and other people came in, and to be fair, I didn’t know whether or not he played a role in facilitating that or not at the time. I also had been careful not to tell people the name of the accused with the exception of Judicial Affairs, my sorority’s exec board, and the police. While I maintain that this was a mistake made in good faith, if you’re reading this and happen to be the man who took me into the room that night: I’m so sorry, and I hope you are living a fulfilled life.
If the gossip wasn’t humiliating enough, an app exploded on Baylor’s campus: Yik Yak. If you were a student at Baylor in 2014, you almost certainly know what I’m talking about, and you almost certainly know where this is going. Yik Yak was an app where people could anonymously share their thoughts on a live feed. The founders themselves, who have since issued me a formal apology, admit they hadn’t thought through some of its consequences and “hadn’t worked out all the kinks.” Yik Yak seemed to start as a place for people to make jokes and talk about where parties were. But it quickly became the launching pad of a smear campaign against me that would last well over a year. I remember the first time I read about myself: “Becky Stevenson is a fucking liar, fucking cunt who falsely accuses people of rape.” Then a few minutes later, “Becky Stevenson isn’t hot enough to bang with consent, why would anyone go out of their way to rape her?” I felt my stomach churn. It wasn’t just that the most personal episode of my life was exposed to the public, it was also confirmation that no one believed me. I’d report these posts; I was too scared to defend myself because I thought it would make me look much worse. I became addicted to reading it, and admittedly, it did a number on my mental health. These posts weren’t sporadic; they were pretty much every 3-4 minutes from 7am to 3am (I noticed). Everyone wanted to talk about it, and they used my first and last name. I had nowhere to hide. Every single time I left the house someone would post about it. I was called every variation of the word “slut.” “Cum dumpster” was a common one. “Why was she drinking underaged? This is what happens when you do that shit.” I received a handful of death threats, rape threats, I was repeatedly accused of lying, and I was repeatedly defamed. I’d find notes and vandalism on my car calling me a “whore” a “lying cunt,” and one threatening to kill me. People I’d never met before claimed they’d slept with me and had graphic, elaborate stories about what I was like in bed. I was accused about lying about other things; someone said I had an abortion; someone accused me of having an affair with a professor; someone accused me of being a prostitute; others accused me of being a porn star. Throughout this time, I was still a virgin. I read that I should be thankful someone was willing to rape me, and I read that I was a monster. It went beyond this app. There were facebook groups, twitter pages, tumblr accounts, reddit threads all about it, some even reposting reported yaks about me. I read about 30 different variations of what happened to me, about half of them implying that I was lying, but I had a few defenders. I had every part of my body analyzed and criticized on public forums. They called me fat, they said I needed to fix my nose, they commented on the side of my ears, they criticized the shape of my teeth and smile, they said I was ugly. It wasn’t even just a conversation about my assault anymore, it was a dissection of my person. And on many occasions my outfits were criticized: “how can you expect to not get raped when you wear yoga pants to class,” “I’m surprised she’s wearing a skirt that short after being raped—you’d think she’d be more careful now.” Every time I went out in public, I felt stares. No one confronted me in person, but it’s pretty obvious people are talking about you when they look at you, turn to talk to their friends, look at you again, and snap a picture. Great, I figured. Wonder which social media platform today’s “rape victim sighting” will end up on tonight. I have a hard time articulating the level of humiliation and mortification I felt as a result of this intense public shaming. I was powerless to stop it, completely helpless. I didn’t want to leave my apartment. Most of my meals I got through drive-thrus. I stopped cooking, one of my favorite hobbies. I didn’t go to the gym out of fear of what people would say about me. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to live anymore, but I was too depressed to find the motivation to end my own life. I deeply regretted not going through with killing myself the first time I’d tried; my life had only gotten worse and there was no end in sight. I was isolated from the rest of the world; completely alone. It was the world vs. me, and I was taking a beating. Things were bleak for me. During this time, I reached out incessantly to Baylor officials, sorority and fraternity leads, and the Panhellenic Council about the harassment I received. Very few responded, and the ones who did shrugged it off and told me it would all blow over (it didn’t; it kept going for over a year, thanks). I went inactive from my sorority and tried to focus on school, but most days, even getting out of bed was a struggle.
As awful as this public humiliation sounds—and it was—something pretty amazing happened because of it. One night in late April, I got on facebook and saw I had a friend request from a girl. I accepted; she messaged me telling me that she was also raped at Baylor, that she read about me on Yik Yak, and that she believed me. For the first time in months, I felt validated, seen, and that I wasn’t alone. More survivors started reaching out; it was as if the publicizing of my rape empowered them to do so. It was weird. They all believed me. I didn’t need to convince them. Soon, around finals, I’d start meeting a few of them for lunch or coffee. Some of these girls had also reported their assaults and had nothing done. One girl pointed out that Baylor was less equipped to deal with rape than other schools because they “didn’t even have a Title IX office.” I’d never heard of Title IX before. I didn’t know what it was. I remember thinking, “oh, interesting,” and returning to my studies. I had increased my courseload to 18 hours to make up for the classes I dropped the semester I was assaulted. Despite all that happened that year, I managed to make the Dean’s List. I was really proud of myself for that.
I left Baylor and went home for the summer, where I took some extra classes and began working out again. I lost about 65 pounds total, and felt really good about myself. I resolved to delete the app (I’d redownload it every now and then, but that’s neither here nor there). And look into what “Title IX” was. I met up with a friend back home who told me the smear campaign was tantamount to retaliation against me for reporting, and that Title IX had a provision against it. “Weird that Baylor doesn’t have something like that,” I replied. I found out that actually, every school receiving federal funding was required to have a Title IX office, which meant that Baylor had done something wrong in not having one.
When I came back to school, the attitude about me seemed to have changed; apparently some of the Yakkers had been identified as unreliable trolls, and more people believed me and felt bad for me. I guess pity was slightly better. Still, I was “the girl who got raped,” and stories about it still perpetuated. Everyone wanted to weigh in and give their version of what they thought happened. I was doing much better mentally, so I tried to overlook it. I kept meeting with other rape survivors and discussing Title IX. “I wonder if we can start a Title IX chapter at Baylor,” I said, as if Title IX was a campus organization or sorority for rape victims or something. A few of us actually emailed the director of Judicial Affairs and the Office of the President to inquire about Baylor getting a Title IX office. At first they told us there “wasn’t a need for one.” We unanimously called bullshit on that statement. One of the girls I’d been meeting with drafted an email to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil and I looked over it and tried to add what I thought necessary. We really had no idea what we were doing. It turns out we weren’t the only ones concerned about Baylor’s lack of a Title IX office; in November of 2014, Baylor got a Title IX office.
I studied abroad the following semester in Scotland, where I made some of my dearest friends—some from Baylor, some from Notre Dame, some from University of Virginia, some from JMU, Grand Valley, William & Mary, Georgetown, Swarthmore, and St. Andrews. Being outside of Baylor made me realize a few things: 1) the culture of slut-shaming wasn’t as bad elsewhere, 2) I was so much more than what happened to me, 3) people other places in the world took rape really seriously and were empathetic. The group of girls in my study abroad crew from Baylor was especially helpful; some had heard about me before the trip, but none of them believed that I lied. It was reassuring and gave me invaluable perspective. I’m still in touch with all of these individuals, and they’ve been extremely supportive to me in my journey and healing.
Needless to say, I returned to Baylor for my senior year empowered. And the timing was perfect: in August 2015, a Baylor football player was found guilty of sexual assault and it had made national news. I opted to participate in Title IX’s peer training education. I wanted Baylor to have a full revamp, and the topic was relevant. At the training, the Vice President of Student Affairs, who I hadn’t seen since the semester I was raped, found me and thanked me. “You’re a really brave girl, and I don’t know if we’d be doing a lot of this if it weren’t for you. You really brought the issue home for us.” I smiled and tried to hold back tears. Really? Me? This was all sort of an accident. I resolved that my role wouldn’t be accidental any longer: I had gone to hell and back, and I was determined not to let that happen to anyone else at Baylor. I got trained with the local advocacy center. I teamed up with the Title IX coordinator on beefing up the school’s education and got involved as a liaison between Greek life and Title IX. I was studying for the LSAT at this time as well; it was after the October LSAT that I was told about another rape survivor who had shared her story publicly. I reached out to her and we met for coffee. She’d had a bad experience with Title IX and felt like Baylor wasn’t doing enough for survivors. Together, we started a grassroots support group (which started as a group message on facebook) of rape survivors. This, I believe, was pretty critical—we weren’t affiliated with Baylor but we were listening to the stories of Baylor survivors, and pretty soon, we had what I would describe as a network of survivors. These women were from diverse backgrounds and walks of life, and so were their rapists. Some were raped by men they were friends with. Some by frat boys. Some by strangers. Some by boyfriends. Some by Baylor athletes. Some by guys at other schools. We noticed patterns of institutional neglect and abuse.
This is why me coming forward is significant: not everyone feels like they can, and there’s strength in numbers. Although I refused to be known publicly (read: I was still traumatized by the smear campaign a year prior), I worked behind the scenes with Title IX and these survivors. In late 2015, my human sexuality class covered a unit on rape. It was deeply triggering for me. I felt people staring to see how or if I’d react. I did my best to keep a poker face and not cry in front of my classmates; it felt like my organs were going to implode. After class, I took my time to gather my things. Once everyone left I began sobbing. My human sexuality professor could tell I was in pain. I wasn’t over it. The wounds had yet to heal. She hugged me, and we decided to meet for coffee. This began one of the most fulfilling friendships I’ve ever had and continued meeting weekly or bi-weekly for the remainder of my college career. We’re still in touch to this day.
As an “underground” administrator of a sexual assault survivor support group, I invested a lot of time in the women. I wanted them to know they were heard, that someone believed them, that their plight was relatable and that they didn’t have to go through it alone. I wanted them to know they weren’t crazy for feeling the effects of trauma. I was an emotionally exhausting venture, but I learned a lot and felt fulfilled in doing it. Every “survivor date,” as I’d call them, I had resulted in mutual empowerment. Again, there is so much strength in numbers and power in knowing you’re not alone. We organized. We put on events. Reached a lot of people. Then in the spring of 2016, some of the women even felt comfortable speaking with the media. I remained in the background, fully supporting these survivors and helping them navigate the media. Baylor started to be put in the spotlight for ignoring these problems. A few new rape cases from Baylor hit the national news. There were rumors about the football team and whether the coaches knew that some of the players had assaulted women at Baylor. We continued organizing. Meeting. Planning. Researching. As this was going on in the background for me, my dear friend and former human sexuality professor asked if I’d be willing to share my story with her classes. At first, I was uneasy about it; I didn’t want to be known. I was scared of publicity. But after considering it more, I decided to do it. I was amazed by the reactions: some cried, many reached out to me individually after, everyone responded incredibly well.
Wow, I thought. When you put a face to a story it personalizes it; it brings it home for people. And maybe that’s how we get people to start caring. “I was raped, and here’s a description of the horrific response it received” is so much more compelling than saying, “we should be taking rape more seriously.” Telling my story forces people to face me, the person harmed by this problem, and tell me you don’t want change. Me telling my story and owning it means you can’t look away anymore. So, I agreed to more speaking engagements. I even did a public service announcement with the Title IX office for incoming students. I think they’re still playing it, because almost every year I get a surge of messages from Baylor undergraduate and graduate students saying they heard my story and were moved by it. The culmination of positive feedback was as empowering for me as it was redeeming. I also set out to meet with almost every local pastor in Waco, especially as someone studying (minoring in) theology, to discuss how churches could address sexual assault. I told them my story. The responses were pretty mixed; some pastors were extremely on-board and began writing a sermon to address it. Other pastors told me I was the first rape victim they’d ever met (which was statistically impossible, but okay), and some denied that it was a problem in their churches or said they covered the problem by addressing “the wickedness of porn.” I decided to revisit it later, and it’s something I’ll address in another article.
I graduated from Baylor on May 14, 2016. I was hopeful that maybe I’d left Baylor better than I found it. I wasn’t nostalgic—mostly relieved. Detached emotionally. I was a bit concerned about what would happen to the support group with both me and the co-administrator gone, and worried about whether Baylor would ever get better. The problem wasn’t just administrative: the police didn’t seem to care; the culture at Baylor didn’t take it seriously at all and saw it as “hot gossip”; everyone had misconceptions about rape. In hindsight, this combination created a perfect storm for me when I was raped there in 2013. While what happened to me may have happened anyway, the responses exacerbated my trauma tenfold. I wondered if the next woman who reported rape at Baylor would go through the same things. I prayed she wouldn’t.
The following week, I returned home to Houston. I had my wisdom teeth removed. In the early days of my recovery, I remember receiving texts from other survivors and people who I considered “in the know” with Title IX that something big was going to drop and that I needed to be supported. I wondered if it was going to be yet another news article about Baylor’s misconduct—but it was so much more. I remember the dates May 24, 2016 and May 26, 2016 as vividly as I remember things like 9/11; I remember exactly where I was when I found out, what I was doing, and what I was thinking. On May 24, I was laying in my bed, three days post-op, watching Rudy (as I was attending Notre Dame in the fall for law school). It was early afternoon when I received a text that said, “check the news right now.” Instantly, I saw that Baylor’s then-President, whose name I’m choosing to omit, had been removed from office over “the rape scandal.” My phone exploded that day. I remember feeling a strange combination of lethargy from the pain meds and adrenaline from the circumstance. I was shocked. At the time, I genuinely didn’t believe the president was at fault; I felt as if the Board of Regents had cut off the tip of the iceberg to save face. I contend to this day, that regardless of whether what happened to me and the work I did at Baylor influenced his removal, his removal as president was never something I intended. In hindsight, now that I know much more, I feel strongly that there was plenty of blame to go around at Baylor, and Baylor’s president was worthy of some of that blame but not deserving of receiving the totality of it.
On March 26, 2016, Baylor’s football coach and athletic director were fired. This seemed to be a bigger deal to people on social media. My phone kept exploding; a few survivors had given my name to reporters as “someone who’d have an inside scoop” and I began receiving calls from media outlets—which I couldn’t really answer, seeing as my mouth was still swollen and I looked like a chipmunk. I’d eventually give reporters anonymous information about Baylor’s handling of rape cases, specifically mine. I was “Jane Doe” for purposes of journalism. What struck me was the way it was phrased in one, “Baylor’s Jane Doe” and “the attackers’ Jane Doe” as if my identity was also property; I was a possession. That rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t belong to anyone, especially not them.
I’d go to law school in the fall and make the most amazing friends I’ve ever had—a supportive group of women who empowered me and made me feel safe and secure in my identity and story. In January 2017, I outed myself as a rape survivor in a facebook post and told my story in an otherwise anonymous blog post, “The Men Who Raped Me Were Made in the Image of God.” My inbox flooded with support (and of course, a handful of trolls) and survivors began messaging me in droves. I began doing what I’d done at Baylor at Notre Dame on a micro-level (meeting with rape survivors) and continued doing interviews as “Jane Doe” for the duration of law school.
I will never say I’m “thankful” for this experience. It was a terrible and inhumane one that continues to haunt me. But this experience has significantly shaped who I am as a person: it’s given me emotional intelligence, increased my patience and compassion, and changed how I treat people. I’m so proud of the woman I am today. She’s strong, resilient, smart, tough, and doesn’t take shit.
I think there’s a lot of power in people knowing my identity. A big part of my story was the fear of continued public humiliation for saying anything, as well as having the rest of the world tell my story for me and weigh in. I faded into the background, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think this story has the potential to reach people and let them know they’re not alone. That’s my mission in setting this site up. I also think it’s a statement of me claiming ownership. This story is mine to tell, not yours. I’m not someone’s victim, I’m Becky Stevenson. And importantly: I’m not your Jane Doe.
All my love and then some,
Becky Stevenson, Founder of Not Your Jane Doe.