Sexual assault survivor shares her story with students

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer, Video by Danika Young | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor Equity hosted sexual assault survivor, sexual violence educator and trauma-informed coach Brittany Piper on Wednesday night in Bennett Auditorium to present a seminar on how rape culture is protecting the perpetrators and harming the victims.

Tracey Tevis, education and prevention specialist for the Title IX office, said they are offering a wide variety of tools such as seminars and open conversations for students and faculty to honor April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“It is important as a community that we observe this month because through preventive activities, we can actually stop sexual assault before it happens,” Tevis said. “We strive to create a respectful and caring community where all of the members are appreciated, and they feel like they belong and they’re valued.”

One in every four women and one in every six men will experience sexual misconduct by the time they graduate. Although these statistics have been stated over and over again, Piper said these numbers are often forgotten and accepted by society.

“There are perpetrators who are walking around among us who are repeat offenders,” Piper said. “I think that oftentimes, we believe sexual assault perpetrators are monsters, but they’re average everyday people — next to us in class, behind us in the grocery store. The fact that it has become so normalized and we’ve become so desensitized to it, I think is a real issue in society today.”

At the beginning of the seminar, Piper asked the audience to stand if they knew of someone who experienced sexual assault. The auditorium chairs squeaked as most of the crowd stood up.

Piper then proceeded to ask the people standing if the victim reported the attack, instructing audience members to sit down if the victim had not. She then asked the remaining people standing if the perpetrator was charged for their crime. Only a few remained standing, powerfully illustrating how rape culture’s presence is entrenched in society.

“In many ways too, rape culture also provides a space for perpetrators to get away with these acts,” Piper said. “With other people being silent, impunity and where survivors are often shamed or blamed and what they’ve done becomes a big point of the conversation — I don’t think that should ever be a part of the dialogue.”

Another point of view expressed in Piper’s lecture was that of the ally, the confidant of the victims of sexual assault. When a survivor shares their story, Piper said the listener needs to express empathy, not sympathy.

Because of rape culture, these attacks are often viewed as a part of life, which is what Piper received in her own experience.

At 20 years old, Piper was raped and beaten by a false ‘Good Samaritan’ who changed her flat tire. In her assault, Piper said she was blamed for drinking too much that night and being naive rather than receiving the help and trust that she needed at that time.

Piper created and became CEO of the Healing Hub, an online membership platform for survivors to heal through group and individual therapy and through meeting other survivors. Piper shared a free workbook with the audience for survivors and allies to use when an assault occurs.

“It’s important to me to let our students know that our office is not here to judge,” Tevis said.

With the presence of drugs and alcohol on college campuses, consent is disregarded. Piper said if sex isn’t a “hell yeah, it’s a hell no.” Consent doesn’t mean coercion, and it can be revocable at any time. Piper also said that sexual assault is not only physical touch; it can be sexting, stalking and targeting.

“After experiencing the sexual assault, it just gave me this profound passion and almost this righteous anger for this issue that I think is way too prevalent in our world today,” Piper said. “The community I found in helping other survivors to walk the similar path that I have, it’s become an incredible part of my life.”

Though Piper has made speaking about sexual assault awareness her career, it does not mean other survivors have to follow in her footsteps. She said speaking out was the best way for her to live with her pain.

Piper travels around the country and the world to speak to audiences about sexual assault. Piper is currently pursuing a three-year certification in somatic therapy, which helps treat post-traumatic stress.

The Equity office will be hosting events throughout this month in order to promote healthy relationships, open conversations and a safe space for the Baylor community. The Title IX office has an anonymous online form for survivors to report their assault. Students are also welcome to call the Title IX office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to speak with a team member.

“We want to offer assistance and support, so no matter the denomination of the student, if they believe or do not believe, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, students know they can come to our office and they can get the help and the assistance that they need regarding harassment, discrimination and/or sexual misconduct,” Tevis said.