Almost at the Finish Line: My Encounter with Rape Before Graduation

by Eva Parker

Today I commit to telling my story. I can no longer suffer in silence like so many of my brothers and sisters do every day. Like so many other Black children I was told to keep personal business private. Telling my truth meant harming family members or chipping the facade of a strong Black woman. Sadly, it is the burden of privacy, the burden of discretion, the burden of pain that forces so many people to suffer in silence.

I was almost at the finish line. In less than one week I would be graduating with honors from one of the most selective institutions in the country. The years I spent in college were some of the happiest moments of life, senior year being no different. I accomplished fitness goals, social goals and most importantly, academic goals—earning all As my last semester. I felt like I was on top of the world. I was a well-known campus leader and maintained a budding social life. However, one aspect of my college years never ran as smoothly—romantic relationships. After losing a whopping 30 pounds between my junior and seniors years, I became an object of the male gaze like never before. Before my weight loss, I was known as the vocal student leader. After my weight loss, I became the “attractive” student leader.
I was almost at the finish line. Classes finished and the most celebratory day of the year was upon us. My housemates and I hosted a BBQ and members of the campus stopped by for free food. He was no different. He approached me on the steps. Unsurprisingly, he was drunk. He told me how much he admired me (physically and mentally), and kissed my hand. I certainly did not expect the encounter, but I certainly appreciated it. I always found him attractive. He was a football player with a beautiful smile, but he was also known as the boyfriend of a girl that I really respected. He expressed to me that they were no longer together (I would find out later that he was a serial cheater), and I accepted his truth.

With only a few weeks left before graduation, I proceeded with caution (proceeding nonetheless). We text during study days and he made a few night visits to my house. I did not imagine the situation being anything serious, but it was nice to have a companion. With the start of Senior Week activities, I began counting down the days I had left on campus. I was sad to be leaving college, and also nervous about what the future held (I was unemployed). Just five days before graduation, there was a Senior Week toga party. After mastering how to tie my sheets into a sexy, but classy toga, I invited some of my female friends over for a brief pregame. We drank wine, made a few toga alterations, and headed out to the party. He text me throughout the night (he was not a senior so he could not have access to the party). We agreed that he’d come over later.

He was drunk when he arrived. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and though it made me a little uncomfortable (reminding me of the nights my father would drink and become enraged and abusive), I invited him into my bed. We lied snugly next to one another on the twin size mattress. I knew things would become physical, but I had not committed to the idea of sexual intercourse. We kissed. It felt like hours passed, but it was only a few minutes. A few minutes of me repeating, “Please no, stop”. A few minutes of him responding, “Please, don’t make me stop”. My requests were denied.

I do not remember why or how he stopped, but I remember how I felt. Violated. Used. Afraid. Alone. He sat staring at me, while I sat on my bed crying. I tried to make sense of what happened before asking him to leave. The next day he called and text me repeatedly. I did not answer. I could not answer. My room and my bed were no longer my oasis, but a devastating memory.

A few days later, I returned his texts and I saw him again. I cannot remember the content of our conversation, but I know I was in denial. I wanted to normalize our interactions and convince myself that it did not happen. Eventually, I told my then best friend. Unfortunately, she was raped by an older neighbor as a child and could relate. She supported me as much as she could, but it did not make me feel better. I felt guilty. I felt like it was my fault. I did not want to be a statistic and I did not want to believe that I could let someone violate me. I never reported the assault—not to the police, the university, or my family. I did not want rape to be a part of my legacy, and I did not want to be tied to him in any way. After seeing him the night of my birthday (the day after graduation), I blocked him from all social media. He tried contacting me on LinkedIn and various other networks, but I could no longer face him.
Unfortunately, I was bound to run into him again. I returned to the university in the fall as a staff member. Sometimes I would see him in passing or at one of the restaurants around campus. If he walked into a room, I would leave. If he was on the same side of the street, I would cross. Moreover, I would see him walking with his girlfriend (the nice girl I respected), and shutter. I wanted to cry out to her, but I could only gather a simple “Hi” or “Hey”. I was suffocating—suffering in silence.

I was raped in my house, in my bed, just four days before graduation—the vocal campus leader, the award recipient, the Dean’s List student, the campus organizer, the mentor, the jumpsuit fashionista.

I was almost at the finish line.

Eva is a student and womanist who hopes her story inspires other college students and sexual assault survivors to speak their truth.

Photo: Shutterstock

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