This is a story for every woman, man, and child who have survived sexual assault. This is for everyone who was brave enough to come forward, report their traumatic experience to the authorities, and then… got no justice whatsoever. This is for everyone who wished they had reported but didn’t, and this is for everyone who felt like they couldn’t report at all. Far too many reports of sexual misconduct go unpunished. But I’m so relieved to share that one of my many sexual assault stories is ending not in open wounds, traumatic suffering, and loose ends, but instead, it’s ending with justice – albeit delayed for far too many years.
The year was 2014. It was January and the beginning of my last semester at Truman State. I was graduating a year early and only had a few months left of living in Kirksville. It was a weekend night, and like any typical weekend night for me at Truman, I was hanging out at the Pi Kappa Phi frat house. I always felt comfortable and safe with the Pi Kapps– they were (and still are) great friends.
However, on this particular night, there were several foreign exchange students at the house that I didn’t know. (And I knew most of the foreign exchange students). One in particular– a Moroccan guy named Omar –was making a concerted effort to chat me up, and though I had a few drinks in me, I was fully aware this guy was trying to hit on me.
At the time, I wasn’t so brave about rejecting men I’m not interested in. So I tried to put out subtle hints that I wasn’t interested. Obviously, it didn’t work.
I hit my energy limit at the party and was ready to go home. My house was just a 10-minute walk across campus and I’d done the walk by myself safely many times before. My Pi Kapp friends knew this, so they had no concern with me walking home alone.
But Omar did (or so he pretended).
He offered to walk me home. I rejected. He offered again out of “concern for my safety.” I rejected again. Then he suggested, “Well, I just live in MO Hall, why don’t we walk together and I’ll part ways with you there?” MO Hall was literally across the street, just a beer can’s throw from the frat house front porch, so I agreed. I’d only have to walk with him for 45 seconds, maybe a minute. It seemed reasonable enough to tolerate.
So we started walking and sure enough, we got to MO Hall, and he didn’t go in. He said, “how about I just walk you home the rest of the way?” I said, “No, really, it’s fine. I can handle the rest of the walk on my own.” He balked at the thought of me walking across campus by myself, and to avoid prolonging an interaction I had no desire to take part in, I agreed to let him walk with me so he would shut up and leave me alone quicker.
We got to my house and as I was unlocking my door I said, “Thanks for walking me home. Have a good night. See ya.” He didn’t respond. Instead, he followed me into my house. I said, “Look I’m going to bed, so….” Stupidly, I walked into my bedroom thinking it would be enough of a social cue for him to leave. Nope. He followed me into my bedroom. All of my housemates were either asleep or not home.
At this point I was super irritated he wasn’t picking up on my cues and I told him he needed to leave. He didn’t. He wanted sex from me. He kept asking me for sexual favors and I kept saying no, over and over and over. I was angry, I was drunk, but I vividly remember what happened next…
Thinking he would understand just how rude and inappropriate he was being for not respecting my repetitive “NO’s,” I laid down in bed, rolled over with my back facing him and said “I’m going to bed. Now get the hell out of my house.”
Bad move on my part.
With my eyes closed and my back to him, I suddenly felt something warm on my face. It took me a couple seconds to process what was happening, but then I realized: he just put his fucking penis on my face.
I lost it. I started screaming, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE!” This time the message finally got through to him and he left quickly. I was shaking with rage and humiliation and disgust and the second I heard my front door shut, I locked it and began sobbing. I had said “NO” more times than I could count. I politely set boundaries. Then I angrily set boundaries when that didn’t work. Yet I still ended up with a predator’s dick on my face.
The next day, I posted on my sisterhood’s (Beta Omega Beta) Facebook group about what had happened and warned my sisters to watch out for this guy. The response I got from them was overwhelming support for me to report the sexual assault. One of my sisters even offered to go with me to make the report.
At first, I didn’t want to. It felt like such a task to drudge up my trauma to some male authorities who are notorious for not understanding what it’s like to have a sexual crime committed against you. But I was quickly convinced to do it anyway in the name of justice and the greater good.
I went to Truman Campus Police. Talking through the details of my story to a room full of only male officers was just as unpleasant of an experience as I expected it would be. But I got through it, and I was told the next step would be to question the suspect, Omar, and file an official report with the Kirksville Police Department.
It did bring me a little bit of delight to hear through the grapevine how terrified Omar looked when he opened his dorm room door to two campus police. But unfortunately, that’s the extent of the delight I’d feel throughout the rest of the reporting experience.
Unsurprisingly, Omar told the police he didn’t do it. (Shocker, I know). So Truman opened up an investigation that involved bringing in witnesses and me having to repeat my story far more times than I wanted. Truman (and the Kirksville police) told me that I needed witnesses to corroborate my story. But I had no witnesses of the assault itself (such is the nature of sex crimes…), I only had witnesses of Omar talking to me at the frat house.
So I called on as many friends as I could that were there and could remember what happened that night. I am still so grateful that they were willing to support me in that way. But sadly, it amounted to nothing. Even my mom got involved and called both the President of Truman and KPD to pressure them to move the case forward. Long story short, Truman decided to punish Omar by telling him…
- He may never contact me or speak to me as long as we were both at Truman.
- He must attend a women’s panel on sexual assault and write an essay about it.
- He must pay the school a fine.
It was the most useless and insulting punishment that could be handed down in response to a sexual assault. He didn’t get expelled. He didn’t even get suspended. In classic Truman fashion, he was given a homework assignment and was asked to pay a fine. To this day, the fact that Truman made him pay a fine to the school puts me in an instant rage. The school straight up profited from my sexual assault.
And then, of course, Truman has the audacity to call on me as an alumna and ask me for money on a regular basis. It’s absolutely disgusting the way Truman handled that situation and I will not give my alma mater money for that very reason (other than the $10 I’ve given to the campus radio station because they gave me a fantastic experience).
And the Kirksville Police? They never followed up with me once about the situation. I called them twice to follow up and was told both times there was no new information. They told me it would probably be a year before they got to my case. A whole year. By then, I’d be long gone from Truman living in London and he would be long gone from Truman back in Morocco. At that point, I just gave up. It totally felt like the school and the police were just biding their time until both my sexual assailant and I were no longer in town so they wouldn’t have to deal with the case anymore. I lost hope that any authorities that were supposed to help me would actually help me.
So aside from the long-lasting trauma and never being able to trust the police, my school, or “well-meaning” men ever again, that was the end of it.
The Unexpected Justice 5 Years Later
After that horrible experience at Truman, I decided I’d never again report a sexual assault. The cost far outweighed the benefits and it only put me through more pain. I have been sexually assaulted multiple times since I left Truman. The painful truth is that I don’t have enough fingers to count how many times I’ve been sexually assaulted in my lifetime. I view this one instance of assault as just a fraction of the greater trauma I deal with so it didn’t seem like a worthy battle for me to fight. So rather than pursuing justice, I ate my own victimhood and just hoped I could deal with the traumatic internal consequences.
Then, one morning recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across this article shared by the Ethical Society of Police about a woman who was raped by a Colorado police officer and then the officer was only sentenced to 90 days in jail. Maybe it was because I woke up in a particularly fiery mood and that article provided the flint to spark the fire in me, but that morning I decided to have it out with the Kirksville Police Department. I sought to address the similarities in lack of accountability amongst police forces regarding sexual assault cases.
I was fairly certain I wouldn’t get any response from KPD–– because why would I? They had failed to follow up with me and carry my case forward when it was relevant, so why would they be any better five years after the fact?
I was pleasantly proven wrong.
A Lieutenant from Kirksville Police called me the same day, and when I returned his call he told me that they did in fact file a report for my case and had prepared a probable cause statement for the Prosecutor’s office. That basically just meant they were ready to issue a warrant for his arrest. But for reasons that the officer did not know, the Prosecutor did not continue with filing charges.
“The Prosecutor’s office should’ve contacted you about that,” he said to me. I replied, “This is the first time in five years that I’m hearing this information. I had no idea that the case even made it that far along. I was never even contacted by a Prosecutor.”
So then that left the question: Why didn’t the Prosecutor ever follow through? Or at least, I dunno, maybe do the bare minimum of their job and contact me about my case?
I decided to call the Kirksville Prosecutor’s office. The elected Prosecutor there, Matt Wilson, opened up my case and reviewed the information so he could, in his words, “see what the hell happened” with the charges that should’ve been made.
After reviewing it he said to me, “I can’t give you a good reason why charges weren’t filed, Anya.” In other words, the Prosecutor’s office had completely dropped the ball.
At that moment, I was almost relieved. For the Prosecutor to finally affirm that I deserved justice was more than any authority figure had ever done for me in this case. Hell, it was lightyears better than the way Truman treated me.
Then he said, “normally we would charge him with a first-degree misdemeanor of sexual misconduct, but the statute of limitations has expired.”
I wasn’t surprised. I knew enough time had passed that Omar could get away with the crime. But then the next words out of the Prosecutor’s mouth absolutely shocked me: “I can’t help with the way this case was handled in the past, but I intend to go ahead and file a felony charge and put a warrant out for his arrest.”
What that means is that if Omar isn’t in the US and ever attempts to return, he won’t be allowed into the country. If he is in the US and he ever gets pulled over, he’ll be arrested on the spot and the Kirksville PD will come to collect him from wherever the arrest was made.
I could not believe what I was hearing. After five years of having my trauma pushed aside and forgotten–– not only by the authorities but within my own mind ––I had just accepted I would never see justice. I accepted that I was unlucky enough to live in an era where rape and sexual assault was not taken seriously enough on college campuses. I just thought that everything that had happened to me meant that I was stuck with the trauma of yet another sexual assault story with no justice or closure.
I’m so glad I was wrong. It brings tears to my eyes to think about how much pain I went through to be resilient enough to be the person I am today, despite my school and my government not taking care of me when a sex crime was committed against me. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to get justice after all these years. So many years of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a deep distrust of my school and the police have all amounted to this one little victorious moment of justice.
Delayed Justice is Still Injustice
It may not seem like much– a warrant for arrest wouldn’t ensure he’d be sentenced –but this is a huge deal for me. And I wrote this story so that other survivors of sexual assault could feel a bit of catharsis through me, particularly sexual assault survivors at Truman State.
Far too many of my close friends were victims during their time at Truman and had similar experiences with reporting–– treated poorly by the school, and little to no followup from Kirksville authorities.
They, like me, have had to live with the trauma for years silently resenting the school they paid so much money to get a degree from. They thought justice for sexual assaults from a school like Truman–– and particularly from a town like Kirksville, Missouri ––was just a pipe dream. All of us lost hope that we’d get the justice we deserve. None of us thought it was possible. We just gave up.
But then, somehow, after years, on the day I just happened to direct my passionate advocacy on social media toward a personal cause that I’d buried deep down within me, I ended up getting the justice I never thought I’d get.
I honestly feel so lucky. Justice for sexual assault is almost as rare as winning the lottery.
Here’s What You Need to Take Away from My Story
My message to all sexual assault survivors: Sometimes justice is closer than you think. Hold tight to your status as a survivor and don’t be afraid to publicly call out the authorities that wrong you. Truman State University wronged me. Kirksville Police wronged me. The Kirksville Prosecutor’s office wronged me. And they will never improve as institutions unless we call them on their lack of accountability.
So be brave, sis. Dare to reopen that can of worms. Risk uncovering your own trauma one more time so that you can declare boldly how the institutions that are supposed to protect you have wronged you. If you need support, reach out to me. I am here for every sexual assault survivor and her (or his, or their) pursuit of justice.
My message to everyone who believes most sexual assault accusations are false and/or lacking in evidence: I hope this story along with the following statistics help you understand just how rare it is for survivors to falsely accuse. And I hope this helps you understand that a lack of evidence isn’t really the problem. The institutions we have in place are ineffective at prosecuting sexual assailants and you’ve falsely concluded that this is because most accusers are liars. Instead of blaming these victims, you need to see that it’s actually our institutions that are failing victims–– not the other way around.
In the words of L.E. Modesitt Jr., “Never mistake law for justice. Justice is an ideal, and law is a tool.”
My message to Truman State University: You MUST do better to support survivors of sexual assault and the mental health of your students. It’s so sad to me how high the suicide rate is at Truman, but the even sadder thing is it makes complete sense to me why it’s so high. After I came to you for help, all you gave me was a promise that my sexual assailant wouldn’t contact me at school and a counselor who literally fell asleep in our last session. And then you made revenue from my suffering by fining my assailant. So, yeah, when you go to a school that has that little respect for your personhood, it makes sense why the suicide rate is so damn high.
My message to Kirksville Police & Prosecuting Authorities: The way you handled my case, by your own admission, made no sense. It took five years, and it could’ve been five more if I hadn’t decided to take action when I did. The people you serve should not have to reach out to you to make sure you’re doing your job. You are paid to ensure citizens are safe and laws are enforced, but we as citizens suffer and lose trust in you when you can’t do your job properly.
Since Truman gave me my degree in Public Communication, allow me to give you a great piece of PR advice: don’t wait until you’re called out publicly on social media to do your job. It makes you look bad. And here’s a piece of citizen feedback–– stop going after drunk stoner college kids and focus on crime with actual victims like sexual misconduct and violent crime (but also the massive meth problem).
I hope you will share this story with a sexual assault survivor who needs it.