My Name Is Anna

My Worst Moment: I find in my university career that it isn’t just one moment. It’s a constant stream of moments that you one day look up from and say “well that’s not right.”.

-My first weekend of university I was assaulted because my roommate abandoned me with a man neither she or I knew, then laughed at me about it when I told her what happened.

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Assaulted by a fellow graduate student, Anna and the women in her classes were subject to gender harassment by male TAs and a university that appeared to do nothing to them. She says she has become afraid of men and relies on ‘the whispernet’ to know who to avoid. Anna declined to provide a photo stock art by @christinhumephoto

-The next year, I was assaulted at an engineering party, by someone who I thought was one of my closest friends. He told me he had no feelings for me, but wanted someone and some sort of action, because he was angry at his ex (my best friend) for moving on. I think what hurt most was knowing I was being looked at as something without feelings. That I was essentially nothing, in that moment, to someone I considered one of my very good friends.

-Two TAs spent an entire soils lab period filming my all-female group on snapchat, telling us to bring them some baking next lab, saying we were doing very well; “for women”. We made a formal complaint- and nothing happened. They remained our TAs, marked our assignments, and I’ve had them several times TA my other classes. The prof was even in the lab when this happened. That was the day I lost faith in my school. I’ve also been told to not worry about getting a job, as a female engineer I can be the “diversity hire” anywhere.

-When you talk to women in STEM about your experiences, they immediately respond with their own, frightening similar ones. We share stories, names, warn our friends to stay away from certain people. But we continue to see them, at every party, every class, every day. There’s no escape. And even if everyone knows a situation and what someone has done, they’re not treated any differently. It becomes an open secret that no one talks about. I’ve done it myself- stood and chatted with someone who I suspect has assaulted or harassed my friends. Because what can you do? They won’t be thrown out of school or their social clubs, you’re stuck with them for years. So you just have to pretend that nothing is wrong.

I Have Given Up On: Anything in the system changing. We live in a culture of “brush it under the rug”. People will listen to your stories, they’ll believe you, but nothing will change. And often, I’ve found the very worst perpetrators are the ones who cry loudest about consent and assault. They genuinely understand consent, until it applies to them. And they can’t see anything wrong with their actions, though they’d be the first to denounce it if someone else did the same thing. And that is terrifying.

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I’m Afraid: To walk home alone at night, to walk past men on the street (even in daylight), to go to a party without a close friend. To not be able to find that friend at any point. To be more brutally assaulted, and the university, social groups I’m a part of, and police not care. To sleep with someone who I don’t know well. What happens if I tell them to stop and they don’t? Because it has been an issue in the past. I’m afraid I’ll never find someone who will listen when I tell them “No.”

This Has Cost Me: Luckily, no economic costs as of yet.

Something You Should Know About Me: I am a confident person. I love my friends, my classes, my classmates, my social clubs. I love going to parties, and I’ve got lots of male friends as well as female. I love my life, and I’m happy. I love studying to be an engineer and excited to graduate and start working. But all this stuff, it constantly hangs in the back of your head.

Is There a Bright Side? Overall, I’ve had a great university experience. And I have grown in confidence once I realized none of those experiences were my fault. It’s made me feel more empowered, more so than I was before they happened.

Secret Weapon: Smarts and hard work. Even if you’re discriminated against, even if you have to be twice as good as the next guy to get the job, you can do it. And eventually, people will figure out you got where you are because you deserve it, not because you were a “diversity hire”. Also, try not to let all those small moments get you down, because in between those moments is a really great time.