Victim of sexual assault blamed after being raped
From editors’ introduction to this special report: "To put a face to the statistics, we are sharing the first-hand accounts of real-life experiences of students who have been allegedly, sexually assaulted. These are their stories, bravely told, though not independently investigated or corroborated by Arrow reporters.”
Thursday nights for Julie Watson typically meant going to a local bar with her friends. But for one Thursday in January 2016, it wasn’t a typical night out.
One of her friends had stepped outside to smoke, fell and hurt herself. Julie tried to get her friend to leave and go home instead of going, a house party with a group of people.
“They were yelling at her, so she wanted to go with them to make them stop yelling and since they were acting like that I was like, ‘OK, I need to go with her to make sure she is taken care of,’” Julie said.
She remembers walking to the house and very few other details about the night. Friends have helped to fill in some of the details, she said.
Once at the house, Julie said she remembers hearing her friend crying and going to try and help her. Meanwhile, her friend looked in vain for Julie before leaving the house.
The friend didn’t know Julie was being sexually assaulted in an upstairs bedroom.
“I don’t remember getting up but I remember just running down these stairs vaguely,” she said.
On the way out of the house she ran into a high school friend who offered her a ride if she could wait, but Julie was determined to leave right away.
“I had never been to that house before so I didn’t know where I was,” she said. “So, I just ran from the house. I was just running down the street. I was barefoot and it was January.”
Once outside and away from the house, Julie realized she did not know where she was and started calling anyone whose number was programmed into her phone.
“I don’t know how I went from zero to 100 so fast,” she said. “Some people always ask me if I was drugged or something, but I don’t know. I don’t see how it would have happened, but it doesn’t make sense how drunk I was because I hadn’t had that much to drink.”
It was around 4:30 a.m. when Julie finally called her mom, who told her to use Google Maps to locate Towers Complex and walk home.
“A car passed me and turned around,” she said. “I didn’t even notice they were turning around and a guy pulled up on the side of the road next to me and was like, ‘Are you OK?’ I was crying, I can barely walk, I didn’t have shoes on, I shouldn’t have been in the street that time of night and I already had the worst thing ever [happen to me]."
Julie decided to take the ride and was returned to Towers Complex safely. She let her mom know she was OK and fell asleep on the floor.
“I didn’t have a room key to get into my room,” she said. “I didn’t have my [student] ID, I don’t know how they even let me into the building.”
Julie woke up the next morning unable to remember the events of the night before. Her suite mate asked her to confirm a rumor that she had sex with someone.
“I thought she was joking,” she said. “He’s so gross and creepy, I would never. I was like, ‘There's no way, I don’t remember what happen last night but I didn’t do that.’ She was like, ‘No, he’s telling everyone that you guys were together last night.’”
Julie said she texted the guy to ask if they had been together the night before, and he confirmed it.
“He thought it was a big joke,” she said. “He was like, 'Oh, you know, haha whatever, yeah, you were so wasted.’”
She told him it was not OK and she was upset.
“He said, ‘Well, if you tell anybody no one will believe you,’” she said.
Julie said she had previously met the man through a mutual friend, and he had been texting her and inviting her to hang out for some time before the party.
“He was always nice to me but there was always something creepy,” Julie said. “So, I never wanted to go and I never did go.”
Julie said she cried throughout the morning, even as she attended classes.
“I looked horrible,” she said. “I looked like I’d got hit by a truck.”
She told a friend who was part of the same fraternity as her attacker and he placed blame on her.
“He said, ‘Well, it’s your own fault,’” she said. “He said, ‘You are always going out drinking, so,’ and he said, ‘You're always getting too f----- up so it’s your own fault. What did you expect to happen?’”
Most of her friends placed blame on her.
“A lot of my really close friends were like, ‘What did you expect — you were out drinking,’” she said. “Well, I didn’t expect to be raped.”
She tried to tell her mom but her mom told her “there are some things a mother shouldn’t know.” Julie said her mom's reaction floored her, so much so that she got in the shower and stayed there.
“I probably was in the shower for three hours,” she said. “I just sat in there crying. I had marks all over me, I had bruises, I had hickeys, it was gross. My hair was horrible.”
She went out the next night because she did not know what else to do and it’s what all her friends were doing.
A week later, Julie told her sister, who told their mom despite being asked not to.
“My mom didn’t know that’s what I was trying to tell her,” she said.
Over the next few months, Julie said she spent her time crying often and drinking more than ever before. One night her friends confronted her about her behavior.
“My unhappiness was bothering them,” she said. “Because you can’t have fun and party when your friend got raped and is unhappy.”
She left her friends and went back to Towers. Once at Towers she decided to report anonymously.
“You have to kind of prove something happened to you, and I didn’t want to go through it and say everything and have more people say that I was lying,” Julie said. “Because people were already saying stuff like that to me so I didn’t want to go through that and he not even get in trouble.”
She sought help at Counseling and Disability Services, and it was a counselor who suggested a letter of no contact. She soon had one put in place but wishes she would have done more.
“I wish I would have gone the full nine yards and gone through everything,” she said.
Since reporting her attack, Julie has met another student who says she was raped by the same man. Julie also has met the person who picked her up on the night of her attack.
“I hugged him,” she said. “I was like, ‘Thank you so much, you have no idea.’”
She now does not party as much as she used to and is more careful when she does.
“It changed the way I look at people in the party scene,” she said. “Whenever I see a drunk girl it used to be funny like, ‘Oh, she’s so drunk,’ now it makes me worry about girls.”
Julie said new relationships are difficult for her, and she has even broken up with people because of her assault.
“It makes it hard to form new relationships because I’m scared how they are going to react and that they are not going to understand that I have different needs than some people,” she said.
Julie is a sophomore majoring in corporate communication at Southeast.