Event flyers are posted outside the Sexual Civility and Empowerment Center office in 1120 Lincoln Tower. The center is currently under review. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

With graduation quickly approaching, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my four years at Ohio State. While I am proud to be a Buckeye, when I heard the news of the Sexual Civility and Empowerment being non-operational while under review, I became worried for the future of Ohio State. SCE provided me with a sense of security in the darkest time in my life, and now I am ready to advocate for it.

On Aug. 27, 2016, I was raped by a fellow Ohio State student. I was held against my will as a stranger penetrated me, restrained my hands behind my back, pulled my hair, and pushed my head into the pillow — all while I was crying and demanding him to stop. Numerous witnesses saw me distraught after the assault as I immediately ran out of the house, sobbing, looking for my friends. Although I was in shock, I made the courageous decision to call 911. I was taken to the hospital, interviewed by detectives and a nurse and completed a rape kit. I was given shots to prevent pregnancy and STDs, causing immediate nausea, and asked to explain the worst night of my life repeatedly to strangers. This reality left me with a range of emotions including guilt, indignity, despair and rage. The weeks following my attack brought constant flashbacks inducing recurring nightmares, an inability to concentrate and despair like I had never experienced before.

At the darkest and most confusing point in my life, I found Natalie Spiert, a support coordinator and advocate at SCE. Though I initially was skeptical about the center, Natalie offered me a sense of hope. She was down to earth and had a way of making me feel comfortable when no one else could. She listened to my thoughts and understood my feelings. She also offered me coping strategies and helped me get involved with free therapy from Mount Carmel Crime and Trauma Center with therapists trained in helping survivors of sexual assault.

Natalie was there for me throughout every important milestone of my healing process. She helped me tell my parents of my assault and even told them how to properly support me.  Natalie was in communication with the detectives and was the first person I told when I found out my rapist had another victim, which she immediately reported to Ohio State. Natalie supported me when I decided to pursue an Academic Code of Conduct Trial and sat in the room with me while I stood up for myself and told my story. And when I bravely decided to pursue a criminal trial, she was there for me. Natalie attended every meeting with my prosecutor and attended the entire trial. When I testified for two hours in front of my rapist, with the defense attorney questioning my character, Natalie was the person I looked to for strength. Throughout the past year and a half, Natalie was the one person I knew I could trust and who would drop everything to support me.

I have written my story to share my passion for Sexual Civility and Empowerment. Students deserve answers as to why SCE is under review and why coordinators were forced to temporarily cut ties with their students — actions that have left many survivors hopeless, perplexed and unsure of where to go for help. If Natalie had to stop communication with me in the middle of my healing journey it would have been detrimental to my mental and physical well-being. Ohio State must recognize that at this point, regardless of what might have happened, it is doing more harm than good by restricting SCE and the unique support it can offer.

In SCE’s place, Ohio State is pointing survivors of sexual violence to Counseling and Consultation Services and Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio, a rape crisis intervention program in Columbus. While CCS and SARNCO are credible resources, they did not help me process or heal from my assault. When I was having suicidal thoughts following the assault, I had to wait a full week before I was able to get in for an appointment with CCS. Then, after attending a session with CCS, I left lost and confused. Although these counselors help many people, they do not provide the expertise I found at SCE. Likewise, I initially called SARNCO’s 24/7 rape hotline but hung up after waiting for 45 minutes without speaking to a representative. Furthermore, while SARNCO advocates claim to be on call at hospitals to immediately speak to victims who have received a rape kit, I waited more than two hours for my SARNCO advocate to show up and did not hear from my SARNCO advocate again after the hospital visit.

As someone who has tried CCS and SARNCO, I want university administrators to know that the only resource that helped me was SCE. I have never encountered as much acceptance, support and love as I have with SCE. Natalie didn’t only give me hope and a sense of normalcy, she also saved my life. Without Natalie, I would not have continued my education at Ohio State nor would I be receiving my diploma in a few short weeks. Without her advocacy, I would not have accomplished my dream of attending graduate school. Without Natalie, I might have even taken my own life. Though I walked into the Sexual Civility and Empowerment center scared, lost, and blaming myself, I left confident, resilient and proud of the person I have become.

The author’s name has been withheld to protect her identity.