I Thought Rape Culture Didn’t Exist at YU — Until I Was Raped
Editor’s Note: Under normal circumstances, The Commentator does not publish articles anonymously, but given the exceptionally sensitive nature of this piece, we have decided to grant the author anonymity.
Content Warning: This article mentions and briefly describes the author’s sexual assault, which may be upsetting to some readers.
When I first heard about the conversations of rape culture on college campuses, I remember thinking to myself that surely rape could never happen at Yeshiva University. Then it happened to me this past year.
In retrospect, I realize I had felt falsely protected by the morals and values that are the founding pillars of our institution. He was also a YU student, and he was on the men’s basketball team; we agreed to hang out for a little while, and then he raped me. I still remember the shock I was in as I sat in the hospital the day after the rape. My heavy thoughts quickly changed from “it could never happen at YU” to “did this really just happen at YU?” Part of me did not want to believe that it happened in our institution, but I am now forced to realize that a school like Yeshiva University essentially acts as a sanctuary for rapists, since the school system allows them to walk freely while forcing victims to suffer in silence and pain.
I can sometimes be a very trusting person, especially when it comes to other people at my school, so naturally, I trusted him. I do not wish to go into details, but when he proceeded to hold me down and respond to my “no” with “but it’s fun,” I knew that I could no longer trust anyone at YU. The feeling of his body holding me down with no escape will forever be engraved in my mind. I explicitly told him I did not want to have sex, I remember telling him “no,” but that word had no meaning in his mind. He had already decided he would not take “no” for an answer. “But it's fun,” he said. That clearly had more weight in his mind, since it was the last thing he said before he raped me.
I won't lie. I felt completely lost and confused for the months following the rape. Immediately afterward, I did not want to tell the school. I was extremely hesitant. Everything was so fresh. I was not even sure how to process it. I told some of my friends about what happened, but my mind still could not process the violation both my body and mind were going through. I only decided to take matters to the school after a professor yelled at me for missing a class and the work for that class. I simply wasn’t sure how to explain to the professor that I was sexually assaulted two nights prior or that I had to go to the hospital to get a rape kit and have testing done during class. Overwhelmed with the situation and the inability to explain to the professor what had happened, I burst out in tears. The professor then proceeded to kick me out of class as they did not understand what was happening. That was when I knew I needed to face the discomfort of the situation and contact the school. When I reached out to Vice Provost Nissel’s office, I decided to keep the perpetrator completely anonymous because at the time I felt so much shame and guilt for what had happened: I felt guilty for being so trusting of my fellow YU student, and I felt bad for possibly ruining his life just as he had done to mine a few nights before.
The school continuously asked me to give over the name, as they claimed they could only help me if I gave it over. They claimed that giving over the name would not only ensure my safety but the safety of other female students on campus. I finally gave over the name, and the school took over from there. They made me and my rapist sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before anything was done, which I was made to believe would have a positive outcome. I am limited in what I can share about the school’s involvement because of that NDA.
Since formal claims were made with the university that a member of the basketball team raped me, another player on the team decided to slut-shame me in a semi-public place, calling me a “whore” and “slut.” He told me, “You’re so dumb for letting this happen to you.” As a member of another athletics team, this is extremely surprising considering the NCAA goes to great lengths for sexual harassment trainings.
Sometimes I feel as if telling the school was almost as painful and hard to go through as the rape itself. I was alone and continuously had to give over my story — every single detail — some of which I could not remember because I felt as though my brain had partially shut off during the rape in order to protect myself. The same repression that protected me also made me feel dumb, as the school would ask the most technical of questions about the incident. It was a consistently unfortunate and overwhelming conflict.
At one point, I was questioned by a man as to why I chose not to go to the police. I answered that I was scared, shocked and alone. He thought it was ridiculous. The man made me feel bad about myself and second guess myself because I had chosen not to go to the police or the school immediately after the assault.
In truth, the outcome had proven why I wanted to keep silent. The duration and back-and-forth with the school felt like an eternity, and the time spent waiting for the school's response afterward seemed like no less of an eternity. What I was made to believe would be a quick investigation extended over the course of three months, in which every day I would anxiously refresh my email for any updates on what was going to happen. The process felt like a retraumatization of what I had been through — like I was still holding on to the incident that I would do anything to let go of — and each day of waiting was just adding to that trauma.
Finally, I received an answer, but not the one I was looking for. Vice Provost Nissel’s office gave me the news that “it’s usually hard to prove something happened when only two people were there.” This left me in complete shock. My heart sank. My world was turned upside down. I had developed a sense of hope that after months of worrying and pain, I might finally be validated and heard, but I was not. The same people who had constantly encouraged me to go through this painful process — all the while promising that I would feel safe again — seemed to have pretty much known from the start that nothing would come from it.
The school has refused to do anything to make me feel safe on campus this upcoming year. Since getting the results I have reached out multiple times concerning my safety in the library and other spaces on campus as I will be on campus again this coming year. I have been told to just deal with it and that nothing can be done by YU — not one thing. The perpetrator is a player on the men’s basketball team, so I also reached out to the Athletics Department. It turns out that it’s simply not in the school’s interest to prevent me from running into my rapist again. I am not sure why YU has chosen to ignore me and try to silence me, but I think it has to do with the reputation of the basketball team.
After this happened, I started to realize that there is indeed a rape culture at Yeshiva University, and it enables rapists to rape without fear of getting in trouble. YU is not an exception to the rule –– its founding pillars have become weak. Every student deserves to feel safe on campus, and right now, they do not. The moral structure is collapsing, and I experienced one of its fatal breachings. Students are not safe on campus, and the school cares too much about its image to restore its values or do anything about it. Rape culture is real at YU, and it needs to be taken seriously.
If you or anyone you know needs help and support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network’s website at rainn.org. If you would like to share your story with The Commentator, please email Sruli Fruchter at firstname.lastname@example.org; any information you share is completely confidential.
Photo Caption: Wilf Campus
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University