Trigger warning: sexual assault, mental health turmoil and institutional betrayal.
Names have been changed to respect the privacy and bravery of those who spoke with me.

It takes an incredible amount of strength to ask for help. It takes even more strength to do so if you have been defiled, disrespected or violated. Survivors on this campus are pushed to come out of the woodwork, only to find themselves naked in front of a spotlight, facing an indifferent audience and a chorus of “I’m so sorry.”

Amid the It’s On Us policy advising roundtables, a potent display of students demands on the Diag and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center Survivor Speak Out, I have to ask: what do we talk about when we talk about reform surrounding sexual assault? We talk about accountability. We talk about prevention and bystander awareness. We talk about survivor support services, in which survivors can find a healing community, such as SAPAC. We talk about statistics and studies. We talk about the narratives of those who spoke up, such as Emma Sulkowicz of Columbia University, heroine of the Carry That Weight campaign. And all of this is vital, pulsing and critical to the daily life of the one in four.

Yet I want to say, no, shout, that we are missing something. We are missing the conversations that take place in quiet. Let’s talk about the individual mental struggle. Let’s talk about trauma.

When I expressed my anxiety toward the end of last year, the most common response I heard was: “Why don’t you try CAPS?” Counseling and Psychological Services is free (once you’ve paid the University’s crippling annual tuition) and accessible in the Michigan Union. As many of my peers know, the first thing one does at CAPS is sit in front of a screen and take an intake survey. I supplied information about my relationship with my mother and my father, my sisters, my sexual history, my sleeping habits, my academic stress level. I provided an honest account of being raped. I clicked a small box, to indicate that I needed to be seen, that I needed to be heard.

When I approached the desk to make an appointment, a woman looked up at me and said that the next opening was in more than three weeks. Three weeks. I spilled my guts to a boxy computer screen. I asked for help. Three weeks.

I am not at all alone in this experience. The rehashing of trauma only to be neglected in the lobby of CAPS is, unfortunately, a seemingly common experience.

Alexa, an LSA sophomore, told me her story.

“When I was first seen, my initial visit lasted about two minutes … I walked into a woman’s office and after asking me my name, the first thing the woman said was something along the lines of ‘I read your form but I would like for you to tell me in your own words and in detail why you are here.’ This struck me because if she read my form and knew I was there because I had been raped, I didn’t understand why she needed me to tell her that again.” Alexa then had to describe her trauma, which was clearly notated: “It was very triggering to write and then even worse to weepily explain what happened to me to a stranger who was not even going to be the person working with me.”

The counselor concluded after two minutes that Alexa needed to see a trauma counselor, to make a new appointment and to wait another three weeks.

To make matters worse, the counselor shifted the fear and blame farther onto Alexa: “She also said, ‘People like you tend to develop some paranoia after their trauma such as constantly looking behind you when you walk and being afraid of being alone, especially at night.’ … she made me aware that maybe I should be scared and now I find myself uncomfortable when people are walking close behind me and when I am alone at night.”

Jane, a senior, had to wait two weeks, only to be given a list of private therapists. Sarah, a sophomore suffering from anxiety, had to wait three.

I would like to be clear: I am glad CAPS exists — but it is not enough.

Sexual assault doesn’t end with a rape kit, a court date or an assailant’s one-year suspension from the University. It doesn’t end when you’re in a loving relationship, when you’re safe and looked after. It lives in people, travels with them and becomes a part of their human experience. By listing CAPS as an institution prepared to deal with the psychological pain that comes from such experience, the University is disrespecting the very women it claims to foster. By refusing to allocate adequate resources to the mental health of its students, while the furnishings of East Quad alone cost $3.3 million dollars, the University states its priorities through its actions.

CAPS announced a change in policy at the beginning of the semester, stating that wait times for an initial visit will be one to three days. Yet Alexa’s and Sarah’s waits both occurred within this semester. If this policy does indeed get enacted properly, when we arrive, will we be treated like Alexa was, with a cold, efficient demeanor, or like damaged goods, which the University must sulkingly deal with? Or rather, surprisingly, like humans grappling with being dehumanized?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real. Chronic pain is real. Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Take our minds seriously. Take us seriously. Stop telling us you care and show us you do.

Eliza Cadoux is an LSA sophomore.

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