Sexual Assault at Vanderbilt: Part 1 – A Student’s Account


Project Safe Center Photo taken by Claire Barnett

This is the first part of VPR’s investigation into Vanderbilt’s handling of sexual assault policy. A VPR contributor sat down with a Vanderbilt student, who wishes to remain anonymous to maintain privacy, to discuss his experience with sexual assault. 


Q: “What was your experience with sexual assault?”

A: “It’s been nearly nine months since my assault, and looking back on my life since [the assault], I wish that I had reached out more. I didn’t talk about my assault with anyone … somehow I told myself that my assault wasn’t as bad. There was one time I was watching [a TV show] where the [character] joked about being assaulted by a girl, wishing he would finally ‘get some action’ and I started to feel that I had it easier than a lot of other victims.”

“Without going into too many details I was pretty much molested when I was drunk and had some of my clothes removed in the process. It was pretty humiliating.”

Q: What do you think caused you to view your assault not being “as bad”?

A: “I wasn’t technically raped. If you looked at Vanderbilt’s current definitions it would qualify as Sexual Assault – Contact… because so often I hear people on a viral video or on the news describe being raped and it kind of puts me into a different mindset by thinking that like ‘oh I could’ve had it worse.’ Like molestation happens daily all over the world so physically speaking I don’t have any injuries”


Q: Do you feel Vanderbilt could have done anything to encourage you to seek help?

A: “Um… I think Vanderbilt does a good job of making people aware that sexual assault is an important issue at Vanderbilt and college campuses in general, but I feel for me at the time I felt I didn’t need help. I personally just wanted to move on. The only thing I’d say is that we usually talk about female victims of assault with like day to day conversations…but I don’t really like talk to other people about sex at all. Growing up my parents and I never had the ‘talk,’ which was more to do with my upbringing. It was more of my reason not to seek help…also the process of dealing with that in general. I just know a bunch of people who have had that drag out for months only to not really have anything happen.


Q: “What can students do to better advocate for sexual assault victims and combat sexual assault?”

A: “The main thing I would say is that your words matter. Too often I’ll attend some sort of orientation session or speaker session where the topic of safe sex or sexual assault is discussed and there will always be one or two snickers whenever a speaker mentions consent or something else. It really isn’t funny.”


Q: “Moving forward, how has your life changed?”

A: “I think I used to pride myself on the fact that I am a little cold hearted, that I would be that person who wouldn’t need comforting and would be strong at all times…I’ve definitely gotten better about that. I’ve told three people about my experience which helps…gets this weight off my chest so I no longer feel that I’m hiding some secret.”

See An Overview of Vanderbilt’s Resource for Part 2.