I am Australia Say, a Senior Biology major, and the 83rd Miss Fisk University.
On August 19, 2018, a fellow student leader sexually assaulted me. After the assault happened, I did not know where to turn. I dealt with very intrusive thoughts, thinking that people would judge me or blame me for this assault. I asked God how could this happen to me? I was not yet ready to report this situation, but someone reported it on my behalf and without my knowledge. The Title IX coordinator investigated the case. After I made my statement, Campus Safety issued a no contact order that stated we were to not have any contact with each other but there were no specifications regarding how far we had to be from each other.
During the time of the investigation, I was preparing to go to Atlanta to represent the University at the Miss National Black College Hall of Fame Pageant. I was not okay, but I was still expected to compete. It felt as if I was supposed to put aside my feelings about what happened, be silent, and continue to represent the University in this pageant.
On October 11, 2018, I received correspondence stating that the case would be closed because there was not sufficient evidence to continue. Soon after receiving the news, my attacker started taunting me, coming within 5 feet of me, and staring from across the cafeteria. He acted as if he knew he got away with what he did. Once again feeling uncomfortable and unsafe on the campus that I represented, I reported my sentiments and worries about this harassment. I was told that because he was not found responsible/liable, there was not much the University could do.
On October 18, 2018, an email was sent out to the campus that another sexual assault took place. This announcement came just two months after I was assaulted and one week after my case was closed with no consequence. I felt as if there was nothing that could be done to keep me or others safe on the campus that I represented. Knowing the school had let my case fall through the cracks and seeing that another assault happened, completely disturbed my spirit. As homecoming week approached, I expressed to University officials that I did not want my assailant to attend my coronation. They continued with the rebuttal that since he was not found responsible/liable, they could not restrict him from attending.
A meeting with Fisk University Legal Counsel was then set up. While speaking to legal, legal stated that what they could do was put a 50-foot stipulation in the no contact order. They also said that I should enjoy the night whether or not he was in attendance because it was for me. However, it was not something that I could just put off or ignore. Administration did not seem to understand that.
We, as a University community, must start holding people accountable for their actions. Whether you have enough evidence, or not, there should be something in place to make students feel safe. Even though Fisk University allows you to take some time away from campus and refers you to the sexual assault center and the University counseling center, the University still fails to make victims of sexual assault feel safe.
To the women and men who have been through this, I am letting you know, as a SURVIVOR of sexual assault, that it is okay to cry. It is okay to not be strong. It is okay if you do not want to talk about it. It is okay to not report until you are ready. It is okay to NOT be okay. We cannot continue to let our attackers take our power or our voice from us. If no one believes what happened to you, I do. If you feel as if your voice is not enough, I can help you let your voice be heard. I am here to be a voice to the voiceless and fight for the women and men on this campus. #ThisEndsWithMe and I will no longer be silent.
With Much Love,
The 83rd Miss Fisk University