We Are Survivors Too: A Parent’s Perspective

(featurecreature)– There are days, places, and moments in your life that you will never forget. For us it was a Thursday evening around 7:20 PM when our daughter called from campus. We knew she hadn’t been feeling well recently and we were anxious to hear from her.

This time the conversation was direct and began with a short, simple question:

“Dad, are you sitting down? Please sit down; I have something to tell you.”

I knew right away something was wrong but I didn’t know that from this point forward my life was going to change.

“Dad, I was raped.”

I still get chills today when I recall these words, these words that changed our lives forever. How do we go forward from here? As parents we learned how to feed, care for and protect our children. No one instructed us on how to move forward from here.

What was clear to us right away was that our daughter received support. Her call home informed us that help came immediately from the Peer Advocates of Sexual Respect on campus. She went to the hospital for a sexual assault examination and began one-on-one sessions with the school’s Sexual Assault Counselor.

Our daughter’s healing had begun.

We learned about the rape that happened 10 days prior. But this call wasn’t about any feelings of shame. It was about facing the tough call to Mom and Dad.

This call told us our daughter was not remaining silent. She was pursuing disciplinary action and the hearing was in three days.

The disciplinary process moved quickly. Our best hope was to make sure we had legal representation at the hearing. Our presence and the presence of our attorney in those three days delivered a clear message that we supported our daughter wholeheartedly.

We are survivors for one very important reason: the availability of a survivor’s  support network on campus enabled our daughter to receive the support she needed and wanted. It empowered her.

It made the difference between despair and resolution.

Students know what happens on campus long before the administration, campus police or parents. It’s this student network that first supported her.

The Sexual Assault Counselor also supported her and us—day and night. We found relief knowing we could call the Sexual Assault Counselor any time. I made that call at 1:00 am one morning.

I just got off the phone with my daughter. She was despondent and alone walking around campus. I was terrified and knew she needed help. A call to the Sexual Assault Counselor at 1:00 am mobilized a Peer Advocate to find my daughter that night.  Through her, we began to understand how our daughter was feeling and we learned how to respond. None of this was in our parenting instruction guide.

Survival for us has been a process and there were (and still are) many challenges along the way.

We seriously considered the decision to not come back to Amherst College. But, the reason for her decision to return was her support network on campus. As parents, it’s daunting to play the “what if” game. After the rape, we wondered, what if we didn’t go to Amherst College in the first place?  But we know we cannot play that game anymore.We have moved forward and are thankful that there was a support network for her and that caring professionals were there when she needed them.