This evening I spoke at Emory University's Respect Program and the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention's Take Back the Night Speak Out Rally. Here is what I said:
I am Allegra Knight, a Masters student at Candler School of Theology and I am a survivor.
When I started my Master’s program at Candler School of Theology at the age of 38, I never imagined that I would end up a victim of sexual assault by a classmate. The term “victim” is usually frowned upon but I wear it with pride. I refuse to cower or feel shame and I encourage anyone who has been assaulted to follow my lead.
I was raised by a single mother who ingrained in me strength and independence. I went to all female schools (high school and college) where we were taught how to protect ourselves. But after my divorce, I was left broken and vulnerable and even with this proper training, I still ended up with a classmate—a friend—trying to rape me and stalking me.
For months I allowed an emotionally abusive relationship to continue which culminated in him attempting to force penetration against my will. Since he had previously ignored my requests to leave me alone, I figured out how to block him via phone, text message, and online media so that even if he tried he would be unable to contact me. Despite these steps, he came to my front door uninvited on a Saturday night at 11pm, which I responded to by calling the police, who advised me to file a restraining order against him in order to protect myself. The officer hit me hard with a case of “scared straight”. He explained that this was a man who does not understand “no” and this would not stop. I saw two paths in front of me: one where I stand up and protect myself or the other where I become a statistic on the news.
I had to navigate the complicated bureaucratic systems both at Candler and within Dekalb County. I had to talk about the intimate details of my sex life with Candler’s Dean of Students and the Registrar. I went through the court system and got a restraining order against my attacker. I could not have done this without the support of my friends. The experience left me wanting to crawl under my covers never to return. But somehow, when we are on the verge of giving up, Providence steps in and catches us before we fall. My friends were there to support me; they held me up when my legs failed. Reach out to your friends, they will still love you and support you.
The more I talked about my experience, the more I learned that I was not alone. And that is why we are here today with the intention of removing the stigma of being a victim. My friend Miranda (who has twice been a victim of date rape) was so inspirational; she told me that she feels called to tell her story, so that women realize that this is not our shame to bear but that this shame belongs to our attackers. I reiterate: this is his shame, not mine. I already knew that if I did nothing and he attacked another woman that would be on my head, but after talking with Miranda I realized that I must speak up publicly about what happened; I am called to be a role model for other women. I must speak up loudly and with strength.
I stand tall… as a victim.