Academic Attrition

Fall Semester of my Sophomore year was when I began to unraveled as I faced the reality of being raped. Spring Semester was when I began to get help and face my rape. During this difficult time, I hid away both emotionally and physically. There were days I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I wouldn’t answer the phone. I wouldn’t go to class. I was unreachable. Alone and isolated in my pain. Overwhelmed by my pain. During this semester, my grades plummeted as I could barely stay afloat emotionally.  I went from a “Dean’s List” GPA with college honors courses to a GPA of 2.5. I think that was the first time in my life my GPA dipped below a 3.5. School was not my focus, learning to move beyond the devastating blow of living my life after rape was my focus.

Attending classes always posed the threat of bumping into my rapist. My Spring Semester of my Sophomore year, was his final semester of his fifth year of architecture. Soon he would graduate and I would no longer have to face him. After being away for twelve years, I knew from our conversations, he was eager to return to his hometown elsewhere. I was eager for him to be gone too.

Just in case you are wondering, I was back on the Dean’s list the next semester after my rapist graduated. Recently when I shared this with a friend, she immediately commented that the College should have flagged my sudden drop in GPA. Honestly until I pulled my transcript I had no idea it was so bad. I was shocked when I saw it on my transcript! I knew I hadn’t done well in school at that time, but I didn’t know my GPA had dropped as low as it did. My friend said it was obviously a sign that something was wrong. I have heard other college rape survivors’ accounts whose grades plummeted as well. Some were never able bounced back academically to where they were prior to being raped.

Years later my cousin who is also an architect, found himself working with one of my professors from this difficult time in my life. My cousin contacted me as soon as he learned of this connection. When he told me the man’s name, I knew exactly to whom he was referring. I told my cousin he had been my professor and the class he taught. My cousin, out of excitement at the common connection, mentioned my name to the man, but it didn’t sound familiar. So, he showed his co-worker a photograph of me. After looking at my photo, he replied: “I never had her in one of my classes.” My cousin was stunned. He tried to inquire of me why this professor wouldn’t even recognize me and I just brushed it off by making the excuse: “It was an 8am class.” The truth was, I am not surprised this professor couldn’t even recognize me. I spent most of the semester in reclusion just trying to get by. I passed his class with a “C” by inquiring of classmates when projects were due and what the projects were.

My Fifth year of architecture, I had to do a project with a partner. I was paired with someone I had never worked with before. My classmate was at least ten years older than me and married. One afternoon when we were working he randomly mentioned my Sophomore year. He said that year had been a really hard year for me, that I really struggled. I was taken back by his comment. Shocked. Embarrassed. He noticed? There were fifty students in my class and he noticed that I was struggling? I desperately wanted to inquire what he meant. How had he noticed me struggling? But I didn’t for fear that hearing someone else’s recount of that difficult time would cause me to cry. I didn’t want to feel any more vulnerable than I already felt. I didn’t want him to ask why I had struggled so much.

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