Content warning: the introduction and each video include graphic descriptions of sexual violence. Proceed with caution if you find such content triggering or disturbing.
At the beginning of the fall semester Professor Avital Ronell was rehired to teach and advise for the graduate programs after being found guilty under Title IX of sexually harassing her advisee Nimrod Reitman. Ronell’s case led to outrage within the student body, resulting in a petition that called for her removal from NYU and a GSOC-initiated protest in front of Bobst.
In light of these events, survivors of sexual violence at NYU reacted: some by signing the petition, some by joining NYUToo, an activist group dedicated to advocating on behalf of survivors and some by sharing their stories with WSN.
In this project, three survivors, Angelica, Carly and Antonio, who asked to be referred to by an alias, decided to share their stories of trauma, struggling and healing, by speaking on their experience with assault as well as where it took them and what it prompted them to do. From our team, we thank them for trusting us with sharing their narratives and for letting all of us learn from them and their resilience.
When Angelica came to NYU for her Ph.D., one of her two then-advisors acted inappropriately towards her and harassed her at a gathering students and their professors attended. She reported the incident to the Title IX commission, established under the Title IX law, which protects people from discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs. A prolonged investigation then ensued. It’s taken an immense toll on Angelica as she wasn’t able to get updates on the process and felt let down by the university, which failed to inform her about her abuser’s return to campus or his whereabouts.
Speaking to other survivors, she urges them to try finding a community and building a support network: “Though I’ve felt a lot of things, I have not felt alone because of other people I reached out to who said ‘yeah, this happened to me, too’.”
For Carly, her story of coping with sexual assault begins on July 25, 2017, the summer before her senior year at NYU. Carly’s friend, at whose place she fell asleep while watching a movie, assaulted her as she slept. He came clean to her several days later and, no matter how hard she tried, she wasn’t able to just shrug it off.
Trying to channel her anger and heartbreak, Carly turned to “NYU Secrets” and encountered a secret of another student, who was dismissed after reporting rape. In disbelief, Carly began a campaign to support students who run into issues with NYU Student Services when dealing with similar situations.
“Try to remember it was not your fault,” said Carly, sharing advice with other survivors. “It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, it doesn’t matter what substances you ingested, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it doesn’t matter who it is,” she continued.
Antonio’s story of surviving sexual violence begins prior to him coming to NYU. While on a trip with his friends, he was assaulted by one of them, with whom he shared a room. For years Antonio doubted the incident because of the stigma that cis-men don’t get assaulted, until his then-partner heard his story and said what happened to him wasn’t consensual.
Now, Antonio uses his experience to raise awareness of how sexual violence can affect anyone, regardless of their gender identity, assigned-at-birth sex or sexual orientation.
After figuring out the ways to deal with his experience and having found people to support him on his journey, Antonio urges other survivors to remember: “… don’t feel pressured to do it in a certain way or in a certain time. … no matter the backlash or what other people might say, know that there are and will be people ready to help you and willing to support you.”
First and foremost, we’d like to thank Angelica, Carly and Antonio for their immense courage in reaching out and sharing their stories.
In addition, we’d like to thank all survivors of sexual violence for their resilience, for coming forward or for taking the time they need to heal. Your stories deserve to be heard and respected.
Anna-Dmitry Muratova would like to thank Lu Limanowski for making endless edits to the video-diaries during finals week and helping with the interview process; Cole Stallone and Abby Hofstetter for the support and reassurance; Guru Ramanathan for guidance, Mandie Montes for making sensitive edits, and Claire Feng for helping produce the project; Charlie Dodge for the most beautiful illustrations and Debbie Alalade for creating the perfect layout.
Correction, Jan. 30: We edited the summary of what occurred to better reflect the views of one interviewee on their situation. The article has been updated to reflect this and WSN regrets the error.