By Kayla Nicole Kimball
Yesterday, I spent a total of six hours in the car so I that I could go to the House Education Committee meeting for two hours and give a testimony for HB1518; a bill that would require Arkansas colleges and universities to have action plans in the way of sexual assault education and prevention, while also reporting statistics to the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board who would then report it to legislators. Obviously, I think we can be doing more, we can always be doing more, but this bill is a step in the right direction.
My experience yesterday was honestly surreal. I never thought I’d find myself in a room full of legislators, strangers, telling my story of rape and abuse. Telling them I had been told to leave a class and lost a scholarship so that my abuser could be more comfortable for his last year of college because it was “best for everyone involved.” But was it what was best for me?
I told them that I am a survivor of campus rape and dating violence. I was raped for the first time on March 30th of 2014 by a man who would go on to rape me at least a dozen more times. A man who has raped at least two other people. Like I mentioned before, I told them about how I was told I had to leave one of my college classes, a choir class, in order to make my abuser more comfortable. I told them about how my classmates harassed me when I exercised my right to return to the class that I had been unlawfully dismissed from. No one protected me. I told them about how current students, former students, even parents of students had reached out to me to give support, tell me their stories, their child’s story, or ask for advice because they believed what happened to them or their child was wrong, as well. No one was being held accountable. It all kind of spewed out and then I didn’t know what else to say, even though I knew there was so much more that needed to be said.
Even though there was a positive outcome and HB 1518 passed the House Education Committee, giving my testimony was nothing like what I expected. I wish I could go back and redo yesterday. I wish I had worn different clothes. I felt so out of place with everyone in their blazers and dress pants and heels, while I wore a black dress, blue jean jacket, and boots. I wish I would have prepared better. I had my notebook with bullet points but left it in the car. As soon as I sat down in front of the mic next to Representative Sturch, I had forgotten my name, where I was at, what I was doing (not really, but it was one of those “forget everything I’ve been wanting to say” moments). I walked into that room feeling strong and powerful, no one could bring me down. I wanted to go up there poised and looking like no one could hurt me now. Afterward, I felt like I walked up there and looked scared and sensitive, but I still told my story. Everyone’s eyes and ears on me. I just wanted them to take me seriously. I wanted them to believe me.
When Representative Walker asked me how I could submit to being raped repeatedly by the same man, I answered truthfully. I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know that what was happening to me was wrong. I had been manipulated and told no one else would ever love me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to say that I was told that if I left him, he would do absolutely anything in his power to get me back. I was scared. I didn’t know the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. I didn’t get the chance to say that education from a young age is so important so that people don’t go through what I did. So, that people know that abuse isn’t just physical, but also sexual, emotional, and mental.
Overall, I am happy I was afforded the opportunity to speak, ecstatic even. I would tell my story to the world all at once, even it if only helped one person. People need to know they are not alone.