This is one of the stories collected by Time’s Up Ateneo for its online campaign, Stories of Resistance, Stories of Hope: A Series of Online Testimonials about the October 15 Protest and the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement in Ateneo. Through this campaign, Time’s Up Ateneo hopes to generate conversation about how the school can continue toward a gender-responsive, safe, and progressive future, while understanding and addressing its flawed past.
TW: sexual violence
*Not her real name
What was your experience of sexual harassment in Ateneo?
I did come forward with my story — not publicly, but through the disciplinary processes. The emphasis on data privacy or non-disclosure forms really made me feel like I couldn’t open up, and if I did, it would result in retaliation.
As a result, throughout my last few years in Ateneo, I could barely look at people in the eye while holding a conversation. I was jittery, jumpy, and paranoid, and constantly scanning my surroundings. Not only was I afraid of seeing my abuser, but I was constantly afraid of retaliation — from him, his friends, and his family. Even writing down my experience makes me fear for my safety.
How was your experience handled by the people and institutions around you? Were there any shortcomings or failures in handling your experience? How did this make you feel?
Although physical wounds from sexual assault can heal over time, the emotional burden of assault can last a lifetime. That’s what people don’t understand about sexual harassment. Yes, you can choose to file a case or a no-contact agreement, but you can’t blame people for not coming forward. We need to feel safe in the system, to be REPRESENTED in the system. Only then can we have a holistic victim-centered approach to protecting survivors.
Blanket statements like “Come forward with your story” or “File to this office” mean nothing when the school policies IN ESSENCE are NOT victim-centered. We can’t rely on student-led initiatives for these — students GRADUATE; they come and go. The school has to have a PERMANENT, responsive, and inclusive initiative to address and prevent these cases from happening in the first place.
What does the movement against sexual harassment in Ateneo mean to you?
I can’t help but feel nostalgic whenever I see “throwback” photos of our campus. But then I remember all the stories I’ve heard, from people who came forward only to be let down, from people who chose to remain silent out of fear, from people who couldn’t push through with their complaints. It angers me how many people were victimized, not just by professors, but also by org mates, varsity members, blockmates, and even dorm mates.
Systemically, we blame survivors — for coming forward, for “talking too much” about their struggle, for not coming forward, etc. This movement has the potential of making a ripple effect in reducing the burden of secrecy and shame that keeps so many survivors silent. I’m thankful that at least we can mobilize in recognition of the movement from a personal struggle to a collective struggle.
Join us in this continuing conversation on October 31 at 8pm at Time’s Up Ateneo’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TimesUpAteneo).
If you would like to share your story in this campaign, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.