Having spent most of the summer in (a very quiet) UCC, it is great to see the campus coming back to life with students beginning and continuing their studies. As an outgoing student, I feel as though I have a responsibility to help ensure your time here will be as positive as possible. I will share my own experience in the hope that it helps someone, in any way at all.
In my third year of study, on a night out in Cork City with friends, I was sexually assaulted. I separated from my friends while chatting to other people I knew. I did not see the danger in doing so as I’ve always lived here and felt relatively safe. Buying my third drink at the bar is the last thing I remember, to this day. I do not know where it happened, how it happened, who it was, or how I got home. I am, however, certain that it happened.
I woke up the following morning with everything that I went out with the night before (phone, purse, keys), except for my underwear. I had multiple scrapes and bruises, mostly in places that could be easily hidden. Having no memory of what had happened I felt like I couldn’t report it. I left my friends, I was drinking, I was wearing very little on a cold November night. I now realize that the only thing that I did wrong was keeping it to myself.
Afterwards it was impossible to concentrate. My results were the first to suffer, my assignments were always late. I couldn’t manage the work-load and chose to defer a module (which I paid for in full and was capped at 40%). I no longer enjoyed going out with friends and kept very much to myself. I am extremely uncomfortable speaking in public. I regularly get flashbacks, usually at night, nothing providing any clarity, mostly just panicked, uncomfortable feelings. When I hear someone describe me as “quiet” or “shy” it takes a while for me to realize that they mean me, as it’s so different to who I was before. I spent this year working really hard to make myself more comfortable with things like presentations and group projects.
Telling someone is a step I have yet to take myself, so it may seem odd that I’m advising others to do so. It does not get easier the longer you put it off. There are so many support services available at UCC (and beyond), but you need to make the first move. You need to reach out and ask for help. This applies to any problem you may have. I have seen other students and classmates approach lecturers and staff members they feel comfortable with and receive whatever help they may need.
I convinced myself I didn’t need help, that I could handle it alone. I thought I had done quite well until recently when I felt extremely guilty at the thought of the other students being vulnerable as a result of my inaction.
This letter is not intended to take away from any of the much deserved fun that is to be had over the coming years. I hope that it serves only to add to that fun by making you all aware of the dangers. Things that do happen here and can happen to you.
I sincerely hope that none of you ever find yourselves in my situation. If any of you do, please speak up. Tell someone, anyone. Make your situation known to those who may be in a position to help you. Look out for the signs in others. Mind yourselves, mind each other, and never leave a drink unattended.
I also wish to add that it is not my intention to give a negative impression of UCC. These dangers are present everywhere you go. Being a student at UCC has aided my recovery immeasurably. I was lucky enough to spend my days surrounded by people who are kind, knowledgeable, open-minded, fair, hard-working and endlessly inspiring.