Rate this article and enter to win
Note: This feature contains graphic details about sexual assault and violence. For help recovering from sexual assault and abuse, see Find out more today (at the bottom).

We asked about sexual assault, and you told us. The incidents you described occurred in at parties and in parking lots, at the office, at home, on social media, and beyond. They included indecent exposure and groping, stalking and sexual coercion, and rape. The aggressors were friends, acquaintances, strangers, coworkers, intimate partners, and relatives.

The vast majority of accounts came from women who had been sexually assaulted by men—as children, teens, or adults. We also heard from men who had been assaulted, sometimes by women. They had struggled with the societal unwillingness to recognize their experiences as assault.

Student Health 101 thanks every student who responded. The students quoted here are identified by their college or university, or not, depending on their preference.

In no-man’s land

Men’s stories involved male and female aggressors. A recurring theme was society’s resistance to the concept that men can be sexually assaulted.

“You’re gay—you must be liking it”

“I was part of a sports team at my high school, trying to be a normal teenager. The other guys on the team labeled me gay, homo, fag, and I couldn’t tell them otherwise. One late night after practice, they locked the door of the change room. They stripped me naked. Each guy held me down so I couldn’t escape, and took their turn forcing me to do things I did not want to do. ‘You’re gay so you must be liking it anyway,’ they said.

“It haunts me to this day. There are times when I go to sleep and all I can see are their disgusting faces holding me down. People who haven’t been sexually assaulted never understand. How could they? You need to seek closure within yourself. The only reason I can wake from the nightmare is because I took it upon myself to charge every single one of them. I made sure that they either spent time in jail or were charged a huge chunk of money.

“Although someone might not understand what you’re going through, you need to tell someone. You need to report what happened, who, when, where, everything, to the best of your abilities. To the people who are trying to help those who have been victims, be an open hand, a shoulder to cry on.”
—Second-year undergraduate, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada

“I bet I can make you love men”

In the residence hall and the rape closet

“I bet I can make you love men”

“He laughed. ‘You’re too pretty to be a lesbian! Have you ever had sex with a guy?’

“I said I hadn’t had my first experience with either gender. He replied, ‘If you haven’t slept with a guy, you have no idea whether or not you like it; I bet I could make you love men.’ He grabbed me by my hair. I was kissed and touched with force and without consent. He kept telling me to stop fighting it, learn to enjoy it, and not to be a prude.

“I felt so empty. I felt like a part of me had been taken away with him and that I had been made dirty. I have come to terms that this was an act of violence and had nothing to do with who I am. People need to know that [by speaking up] they can prevent other people from getting hurt too.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Utah State University, Logan

“I was raped in my residence hall room”
“Many questions were asked. ‘Had you been drinking?’ ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘Who?’ ‘Did you fight back?’ ‘What time?’ 

“What I really needed to hear was ‘I believe you,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘It’s not your fault.’ 

“The society we live in teaches us to ask questions rather than listen. Survivors deserve more than that. We deserve to know that those who love us will be there for us no matter what.

“I was raped in my residence hall room, in sweatpants and one of the largest T-shirts I own and a sports bra, hair up and no make-up, without a drop of alcohol or drugs in my body. It was late, and this young man was someone I had had relations with before, but the fact of the matter was that I said ‘no’ and he did it anyways. That is what rape is: sexual intercourse without consent. 

“Please listen to someone, rather than question them, the next time they come to you in confidence. Tell them you believe them. Tell them it wasn’t their fault. Tell them you love them. Tell them until they believe it.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Lasell College, Newton, Massachusetts

“I was assaulted by my caregiver”

“My friends would say guys can’t get raped”

“My girlfriend trusts me less after I told her”
“At the end of the academic year, I became homeless, simply because my off-campus leases ended/started one week apart. Twice in that week I felt very pressured to perform sex acts with female friends who let me sleep over. I felt diminished by both events.

“I’ve been completely honest with my new partner, and she has judged me, held me responsible because I’m the man in the situation. She trusts me less because I was honest with her. She is also a victim, and it hurts a lot that she can’t seem to understand my side.”
—Undergraduate, New York

“My friends would say guys can’t get raped”

“I was assaulted by my caregiver”
“I was sexually assaulted by the caregiver when I was in a foster home. Her husband (a truck driver) was gone, and she took advantage of me. I was 13 years old at the time and unsure of what was going on. I tried to report it to DHS and was told it was all a fantasy. I became very reserved toward everyone, became a loner for many years. I didn’t trust anyone for a long time.”
—Undergraduate, Iowa

Abused online, coerced, and stalked

Survivors described abuses across the continuum of sexual assault and harassment.

“People think the assault made me asexual”
“I was studying abroad and a man grabbed my chest. I have dysphoria [emotional discomfort] about my chest, and being forcibly reminded that I am not flat while being assaulted was a bad combination.

“My asexuality helps me avoid some possible triggers. But people assume the asexuality is because of the assault, when actually I was asexual before.

“Even if your story fits none of the dominant narratives, what happened is still real.”
—University of Rhode Island, Kingston

Clicking, grabbing, homophobia, and stalking

Clicking, grabbing, homophobia, and stalking: The continuum of sexual violence

Homophobia at the mall
“I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for three years, and am proud and happy to hold his hand in public. One time when we were at the mall, a group of about 10 men followed us. They said, ‘Yo, my boy needs some lovin,’ and ‘You gaga don’t belong here.’ I do not believe in confrontation, but the moment we got into the car I cried my eyes out. I could not believe grown men could treat us like that. They have no idea what we are like, where we come from, etc. For them to demean us in such a way is inexcusable. But I am stronger than those men. I use that incident to allow me to be strong and always smile at the haters. I am happy where I am, and they will not bring me down.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey

“I could not look in the mirror, I hated myself so much”
“I was hanging out with some older people I was trying to be friends with, but was having a hard time getting into the group. The group leader said he would let me be friends with them if I gave him head. Desperate for acceptance, I did it. He kept his word and let me hang out with them, but afterwards all I wanted was to be alone. I could not look in the mirror without wanting to yell, scream, cry, and pull my hair out because I hated myself so much.”
— University of North Texas, Denton

“One click can really hurt”
“My information was pulled from Facebook and Snapchat and manipulated to be posted on websites that contained adult sexual content. I was confused: I was receiving calls and messages from people on those sites. I tried going to the police and university staff. Now, I always tell people to be wary of things they post. If I see cases like that, I try to make my friends understand how one action, click, or hurtful message can really harm someone else.”
—University of California, Irvine

The impact on survivors and communities

Survivors lost their trust in others, their sense of safety, and their self-belief. Some described the impact on their relationships, capturing the harm that sexual violence inflicts on communities and social networks.

“It has shaped who I am”
“It has shaped who I am. I have depression bouts. I do not trust adult men, even doctors.”
—Wyoming

“I suffer from PTSD”
“I was molested by someone I trusted, someone with authority over me. I suffered from PTSD and a deep depression.”
—California

What sexual assault means for survivors

“I couldn’t hang out with my guy friends”
“Afterward it was hard to hang out with some of my best friends, because they were guys. I was so afraid of guys.”
—University of West Georgia, Carrollton

“My feelings would never matter”
“It heavily impacted my college life, how I felt about myself and my social environments. I was just an object. My opinions or feelings would never matter. I wasn’t good enough. I felt used and scared. I was repulsed by myself, by my reflection. To this day, what happened to me has given me a general distrust for everyone.”
—Undergraduate, Massachusetts

“I haven’t trusted anyone since I was 15”
“That was the moment I stopped trusting anyone. Literally, if you said the sun was shining, I would go and verify. I am constantly worried someone is trying to hurt me.”
—University of Alaska, Anchorage

“I was always on guard”
“I ended up leaving the apartment complex so I didn’t have to see the guy again. I didn’t want to go out as much, I didn’t want to be alone with people, I didn’t want to drink with other people. I was always on guard. I started making up excuses. I would say, ‘I have so much homework,’ or, ‘I don’t feel well and I just can’t go out.’”
—University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Survivors’ messages to other survivors

“You still deserve good in the world”
“Your body isn’t ruined or dirty because someone else touched it without permission. You deserved good in the world before it happened, and you still deserve good after. Please don’t let someone else’s ill intentions become your new view of yourself and your body. Talking to someone you trust really helps.”
—University of Massachusetts, Lowell

“My boyfriend listened without judgment”
“Looking back, I wish I had told more people. Everyone needs support, whether they recognize it or not. It’s not something that you need to experience alone. My boyfriend was very supportive. He was almost as mad as I was at the police. The biggest thing he did is that he listened without judgment.”
—University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“I can move on and do great things”
“Something that helped me is to first tell someone who you trust and who you trust will have the right reaction. Second, to know that even though it hurts, it is not yours to carry. I believe God wants me to give him the sadness and anger so that I can move on and do great things. I was not in college at the time. I was only two
years old.”
—New Hampshire

How to take that knife out
“There’s not a thing I can do to change what happened, but through prayer and forgiveness I was able to walk away from it. If you don’t forgive, it’s like that knife of pain they put into you; you’re just digging it around in your belly, saying, ‘This is what happened to me, look how they hurt me! Look how sharp this knife is!’

“Forgiveness is the act of pulling that knife out and dropping it. It hurts. It’s not because they deserve to be forgiven. It’s because you deserve to walk free of it. Forgiveness is the only way to take that knife out.”
—Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington

Intimate betrayals: Abuse by partners and family members

For many, sexual assault and coercion were part of intimate relationships with boyfriends and husbands (occasionally, girlfriends). Others had been sexually abused by family members during childhood. 

“I’ve tried to suppress this memory”
“I would have never called it rape or sexual anything at the time, but lately I just flashback and relive the experience. When I was 12, my uncle told me to lay with him to play a game. He began touching me and asking if I feel ticklish. He told me that these were the places boys will touch and it will make me feel good. He inserted his fingers inside me and kept asking how it felt. All the while my sister, who was about six, was sitting in the corner playing with her dolls. I went to my mother’s room, but I knew she would never believe me. I didn’t want my father angry either. I stood over her bed and walked out and cried on the bathroom floor.

“I never spoke to anyone about this. I never saw a reason to mention it. Thinking back, I feel vulnerable, used up. Whenever I see my uncle at reunions, I just wonder if he truly chose to forget or he knows what he did and regrets it every day, just how I regret I never told my mother. I have tried to suppress this memory for the longest of times. I hope this helps at least someone.”
—New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark

“He said he was thinking of suicide”
“I became roommates with another gay male and he told me he loved me. I said nothing would happen. Every other night he would ask to be with me. He’d turn into a wreck, saying it would make his life better and he’d thought about suicide. One night, when we saw each other at the bar, he sexually assaulted me there.”
—Omaha, Nebraska


Get help or find out more


You must enter your name, email, and phone number so we can contact you if you're the winner of this month's drawing.
Your data will never be shared or sold to outside parties. View our Privacy Policy.

What was the most interesting thing you read in this article?

If you could change one thing about , what would it be?

HAVE YOU SEEN AT LEAST ONE THING IN THIS ISSUE THAT...

..you will apply to everyday life?

..caused you to get involved, ask for help,
utilize campus resources, or help a friend?

Tell us More
How can we get more people to read ?
First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail:

Phone Number:

What was the most interesting thing you read in this article?

If you could change one thing about , what would it be?

HAVE YOU SEEN AT LEAST ONE THING IN THIS ISSUE THAT...

..you will apply to everyday life?

..caused you to get involved, ask for help,
utilize campus resources, or help a friend?

Tell us more.
How can we get more people to read ?
First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail:

Phone Number:



HAVE YOU SEEN AT LEAST ONE THING IN THIS ISSUE THAT...

..you will apply to everyday life?

..caused you to get involved, ask for help,
utilize campus resources, or help a friend?

Tell us more.
How can we get more people to read ?

First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail:

Phone Number: