Before we share this story, I must warn you that it is incredibly disturbing but yet incredibly important. Sexual assault is a cancer that grows in darkness and abuse must be exposed so that justice can come to fruition. This young woman experienced something unthinkable. What is more, she experienced something avoidable if it were not for the disregard and lack of compassion exhibited by Cedarville University.
Next time the administration lectures us about the importance of mental health or caring for victims of sexual assault, remember how they handled this situation and how desperate this system must be changed. Remember that Cedarville cast out one of its own and put them in a dangerous position for the sake of public perception. Remember that Cedarville sought no recourse for its wrongdoings but simply doubled down on their disregard.
This story is not shared just to show Cedarville in a bad light. It is to bring to light a deeply broken system and expose the abuse that this student faced. There must be change. It is clear what was wrong in this instance. She should never have been forced to leave. She should have been given shelter at Cedarville before the incident because she had nowhere safe to go.
After the assault occurred, she should have been given shelter because there was nowhere safe to go. She should not have been blamed for the assault she experienced. She should have been believed. Leviticus 25:35-36 holds a command to fear God by providing shelter to those in our community who are in need, a command which is reflected in New Testament teachings to care for those in need.
But fear of God was exchanged for Fear of COVID-19.
Cedarville must be held accountable for this horrific failure and must change its policies and procedures. Share your opinions on how the system should be changed in the comments or through our social media.
To the woman who shared this story, we admire your courage to express the pain you experienced and hope that even in some small way, sharing your story brings you comfort, particularly through the support of students gathering around you as it should have been two years ago. You are of immeasurable worth as a loved child of God and a member of our family.
Twenty Four Months.
Seventy Thousand Five Hundred Twenty Hours.
One Million Fifty-One Thousand Two Hundred Minutes of being a survivor.
Two years ago today, I was brutally raped. Twice.
Two weeks before my life would be branded by a vicious attack, Cedarville closed its doors to hide from the pandemic and left thousands of students searching for a place to reside.
We were told to pack some bags and go home, or go anywhere really.
One by one, students went home or were paired off with surrounding churches for respite. Only the “elite few” were allowed to stay on campus. Students who were missionaries or pastor’s kids were given preference. Students who had “ins” with administration or important staff members were conveniently allowed sanctuary in dorms.
Then, there was me.
A straight-A honor roll student. A student who volunteered in as many organizations as they could and did their best to meet Cedarville’s idea of a “good Christian young woman.” A young naive twenty-year-old girl with a known heart disability who had recently started dating a Christian young man whose family members attended Cedarville.
I petitioned Cedarville to allow me to stay on campus. I had no resources outside of the University to ensure I would be fed, housed, and in a suitable place to take care of my medical needs. I was denied. They told me to reach out to a church and see if some stranger would take me in disregarding their legal responsibility to allow me the housing I paid for.
I began to look frantically as my days left on campus dwindled quickly. Each unsuccessful second that went by looking for housing pushed me one more second closer to homelessness.
Eight hours from Cedarville, my mother was actively fighting the Coronavirus in the trenches of a hospital ER while my father was trucking many hours to ensure our state was still fed. My siblings hid at home praying for my parent’s safety while doing everything they could to stay healthy themselves. My sister, frail from her weakened heart and deteriorating body, feared for her life as she was given a death sentence if she caught the virus.
I could not go home.
Cedarville remained open for the elite who were chosen to stay on campus. The ones whom Cedarville thought were worthy of protection. Those students continued to be fed and housed. I found the President of Cedarville, Thomas White, in the cafeteria and shared my fears. He told me to talk to the Dean of Women: Mindy May, a woman who made it clear she did not like me.
On numerous occasions she threatened to kick me off campus If I could not get my heart disability under control. I petitioned to stay again but the answer remained. I had to leave. Cedarville wanted to keep the numbers as low as they could on campus and I was deemed not in need enough to stay.
I packed the essentials and what few possessions I could fit in my parent’s old grey half broken down Prius they had let me borrow at the beginning of the year, and I prepared to leave.
Just one day before being sent from campus I found an elderly couple to reside with. After about a week, my stay there was complete. They could not house anyone long-term due to the health risks it posed them. I deeply respected that.
I moved on to stay with a friend for a few days and then was told I needed to go somewhere else. Not out of malice or spite, but simply because each family was doing what they could to keep their family safe.
Except this time was different. I did not find anywhere to go at the last minute. I was out of options: be homeless or spend time at my boyfriend’s house with his mother.
Being a young girl with strong morals, I personally opposed to residing in the same house, but I was given a different room upon arrival and assured that his mother would be around.
Looking back, I can truly say I did everything I could. I stayed in public spaces around him, remained modest, and upheld the values I held dear to my heart.
But. It. Didn’t. Matter.
One night went by and all seemed well, but the next day his mother went to her work office to sort out some urgent matters.
My boyfriend, in broad daylight, alone in that country house trapped me. Grabbed me. Heinously defiled me. Bruised me. Cut me. Raped me, destroyed me, and left me.
I was stuck in that house with nowhere to go. A house I never would have been in if Cedarville let me stay. If Cedarville deemed me valuable. Stuck- on the second floor in broad daylight, only one exit from that house. A long flight of stairs down to the main living room full of dog hair and crusty wallpaper and the man who had stolen everything from me in an instant.
I hid in that room and cried for hours. Terrified and broken. I sobbed and sobbed and eventually, he came upstairs. He said he was sorry for what he had done and that he would protect me. I could not tell his mom I could not tell anyone. He said he would ruin me if I ruined him.
Less than 24 hours later he marred me again.
Worse. Much worse. I begged him to let me go see a friend and assured him I would be back. He trusted me and I fled to the hospital where COVID was in full force.
There was no compassion or close contact. I was stripped, tugged, pulled, photographed, tested, treated, and discharged. They took my clothes, took my hair, took my blood, and took my dignity. They sent me out of the hospital doors wearing a prisoner’s grey jumpsuit broken by the world and turned into a lost scared little girl fearing for her life.
I was referred to a sheriff who took on my case and then I was forced to return to the house I was attacked in to retrieve my few belongings.
I called my pastor’s wife at the time who said she was so sorry this happened and she told me she would help me.
I spent the night alone in my car and the next morning I contacted Cedarville. The one place that could actually keep me safe until I could go home. Their campus dining and residence were still open to the elite few, I knew they could take me in. The only one who could provide me with what I needed during the most vulnerable time in my life. I was hoping I would find respite in a time that NEVER should have occurred if Cedarville had allowed me to stay in the first place, but because I was not the elected elite few and not a shining star in Mindy May’s eyes, she sent me packing.
I spoke to one of Cedarville’s licensed counselors who told me she was so sorry but could not talk to me on the phone because the counseling office was no longer open. She referred me to title 1X who told me to file a police report and turn it into her.
From there I got connected with my campus Pastor’s wife, who also worked as a staff member on Cedarville’s campus; she assured me they would find me safe. She contacted Mindy May personally and with my permission, told Mindy everything that happened. She explained that I needed access to my belongings in my dorm as most of the items I had taken with me were absconded from me and that I needed temporary housing to keep me safe from the man who was threatening to permanently harm me again and to hurt my family. Cedarville was the safest place I could be. I knew Cedarville. In my broken, vulnerable, physical, and mentally shattered state I needed safety.
Cedarville preached God’s love and safety but never gave it. Hypocrites.
My pastor’s wife told Mindy how I had been raped and how I was left with nowhere to go. She made valid all the reasons why I needed to be back on campus and allowed in with the elite few.
Yet Mindy still said no.
She deemed the risk of one more student staying on campus too high to overcome. She told the Cedarville staff member to help me find a residence but that Cedarville did not want to be put at a higher risk for coronavirus so she would not let me return.
In doing so she proved that unless you are a chosen selected valuable few to Cedarville you are disposable. Cedarville offered no protection to me- the disabled. No protection to me the- homeless. No protection to me- the raped. It did not matter because I was disposable.
The real truth is if Doctor White or Mind May’s imaginary daughter had been in a situation where they would be homeless Cedarville never would have forced them to leave. They would have never gotten hurt and they certainly would have made room for them to return. But I was not valuable enough.
I was left disregarded and sent to a random stranger’s house. Hoping to goodness my attacker did not find me. Bleeding, sick, and hurt, hiding in a stranger’s house with a stranger’s belongings and trying not to completely lose hope.
Hurt, marred and stunned by the world, I get a call from Cedarville’s Title 1X who implies I could be the problem. I was asked if there was anything you did wrong? If I possibly tempted him? I was told he should not have done that even if I was butt naked dancing in a strip show, but still, maybe I tempted him. Compassion with twisted ideology. Questions with manipulation and false conceived mercy with guilt. I had done nothing wrong yet I felt I was the one to blame.
Cedarville, a school that preaches love and acceptance maintains a defiled view of the life of its students. Cedarville, a group that challenges compassion for those in need will trample over you if you are not like them. Cedarville, an institution paid to provide housing and food will take that from you if deemed necessary.
It sickens me to know that the woman who made the decision for the trajectory of my safety and my life during such a vitally vulnerable time still has the ability to make decisions over many girls’ life. She remains the Dean of Women to this day. It sickens me to know I will spend many years in debt trying to pay back the hospital bills that never should have occurred. It sickens me to know that I will spend thousands of dollars and twenty years of my life paying back Cedarville student loans that should no longer be my responsibility. It sickens me to know that a God of love and a God of justice is being presented at Cedarville yet no justice has been brought for what I was forced to endure.
While I have endured this great tragedy that never should have occurred, I still pray for Cedarville, I pray for their students, and I pray justice will be brought for their failures and what I was forced to endure by their hands.