Page 1: ‘I kept saying no’

Mya Studyvin

“Right after, I just didn’t think that it had happened. I just kind of shook it off. I was with a bunch of my friends and when I came upstairs, I was explaining it, and my friend was like, ‘that’s rape.’” – senior Callie Knudson

Teenage women are four times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than the rest of the population.

This stat from the Bureau of Justice Statistics may not come as a shock.

Sexual violence can affect anyone – regardless of race, age or gender – but an overwhelming number of sexual assault victims are young women.

Senior Callie Knudson is one of them, becoming part of that statistic in August 2020 when she was raped by an acquaintance.

“You never want it to happen and it changes your life a lot,” she said. “You don’t like yourself, you feel like there’s something wrong with you. You definitely feel violated. But there’s nothing wrong with you.”

According to Marshall University Women’s Center, 80% of rapes are considered ‘acquantiance rape’ because the rapist is someone the victim knows.

“I saw him a lot – he was online for a while and when he came back, he used to walk by my Spanish class every single day,” she said. “It got to the point where I wanted to be online because I didn’t want to see him.”

The aftermath of her rape was debilitating, and Knudson struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“People … think about veterans and stuff like that (with PTSD), but then you go through something and realize the littlest things can set you off,” she said. “For the longest time, people saying ‘no’ would freak me out… I had people go get gas with me because I was scared to do it by myself.”

The urge to stay at home and disappear into oversized clothing quickly took over.

“I didn’t walk with any confidence or anything,” Knudson said. “I always wanted to wear sweatpants and big clothes. I was very much hoping nobody was looking at me. And (I was) trying to be invisible.”

As many other victims do, she encountered a slew of comments – deliberate or not – that insinuated the rape was her fault.

What were you wearing?

Were you flirting with him?

Did you say no?

No surprise, Knudson questioned if she really was the one to blame.

“A lot of the time, people ask why you don’t fight back,” she said. “There were numerous times where I wondered why I just laid there and didn’t try to get him off me… There’s no describing being that vulnerable underneath someone that’s significantly stronger than you, and in the moment, if you’re scared, you just let it happen.”

Preventative measures can be taken to reduce the risk of sexual assault, but ultimately, nothing can stop it.

“Shame, blame, stigma, and fear often prevent people from coming forward after a sexual assault, and we cannot directly support survivors of assault if they fear coming forward,” said Sara Zafar, Title IX Coordinator and Institutional Equity and Compliance director at Wichita State. “There are so many ways this can look, and there is a lot of ingrained language in our cultures that leads to victims feeling shamed and blamed… Having the courage to call out victim-blaming language when we hear it, from our peers or the media, can go a long way.”

According to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, teaching comprehensive sex education and raising children in a culture of consent can help to further reduce the risk.

Author and professor Jennifer Hirsch warns that under-preparedness for sex can result in a higher likelihood of being assaulted or assaulting someone else.

“It’s terrifying as a parent that your child is going to drive, but you acknowledge that and make sure they’re prepared, whether they take Driver’s Ed or you teach them yourself,” Hirsch said. “On top of that, there’s road design and all kinds of systems layered together to make what is a dangerous behavior safer.

“We’re refusing to do that with sex, and it’s not surprising that silence produces people that are underprepared to have sex in a way that doesn’t hurt other people.”

In other words, why should we be surprised at the ridiculously high numbers of sexual assaults?

“At first, I never wanted to talk about it,” Knudson said. “But the surreal thing is that it happens to a lot of people, and speaking out could encourage someone else to do the same.

“Speaking out makes me feel like a stronger person.”

Although three out of four sexual assaults remain unreported (BJS), Knudson chose to go the legal route and she and her family sought legal action.

“We haven’t heard from the police department since a couple weeks after it happened. It’s really just a waiting game,” she said.

Local resources are available for little to no cost in the event of an assault, including the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center and the Planned Parenthood Wichita Health Center.

Both offer a wide range of service options and offer protection through confidentiality and non-discrimination policies to provide victim security.