Bystander stories

*TRIGGER WARNING: This section contains experiences with sexual  violence that may be triggering to survivors and others.

Guidelines to read before submitting

Firstly, we want to thank bystanders for clicking on this page. Sexual violence affects whole communities and it is vital for all of us to acknowledge the important role that bystanders can play in supporting survivors and preventing sexual violence. Tt takes a courage to write about and share your experience with sexual violence, and we hope you know how much we value your voices.

We would like to point out that UO-CESV deals with sexual assault and sexual harassment specifically at UO, so we ask that submissions be relevant to these specific issues. We certainly acknowledge that issues of sexual violence extend far beyond UO. However, UO-CESV has chosen to specifically address sexual violence at UO . We encourage bystanders who want to share their stories, but whose stories would not be done justice in this space, to contact us at so that we can help you find an outlet for sharing your story.

Lastly, we would like to inform bystanders that we do reserve the right to edit your story in order to remove language that could be harmful to other bystanders and survivors. Please keep in mind that survivors read these stories and do your best to avoid using victim-blaming language and giving advice to other survivors. We created this page to give readers the opportunity to learn about how prevalent of an issue sexual violence is for the UO community, as well as to give bystanders a place to share their stories without imposing judgment.


One thought on “Bystander stories”

  1. I am leaving my remarks as a “bystander” because I am not a student at UO. I am, however, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and rape as an adult. I share my story in hopes of helping others see the importance of standing up to Institutional Betrayal.

    Dr. Jennifer Freyd and two UO doctoral students, Carly Smith and Jennifer Gomez, wrote a law-review paper about my father/rapist’s criminal sexual conduct case and how the judicial system betrayed me. That paper can be found here:

    I know how deeply Institutional Betrayal harms victims. I *know* it firsthand, as it has taken me a lifetime to deal with the pain of the betrayals that I endured at the hands of many institutions who should have helped me escape the routine rapes and beatings that I suffered for many years in my own home. These betrayals were not without significant costs to me and potentially other victims of my father’s crimes. For 35 years after being removed from my “home,” I lost sleep, my health, and suffered deep anguish and intense flashbacks each and every time I heard of my father having access to children. My warnings went largely unheard. Who would believe a victim whose perpetrator was a former cop, and who never served time after the completion of the court proceedings? As a teen, my reputation suffered, and I lost most of my family as I went through 4 foster homes in less than 2 years’ time.

    It took 35 years for me to learn the truth about why my father’s crimes went largely unpunished, but I was issued a “no-contact” order with my siblings. It took 35 years to find all of the smoking guns that resulted from the buried facts, and the half-truths that were told in a court of law. I can see now that I was but a mere inconvenience to the prosecution, who wanted nothing more than to dispose of my case as quickly and as quietly as possible just to shield the local police department from public scrutiny and possible civil liability if more victims came forward. I was invisible to them. I was expendable.

    I felt gang raped. I felt gang raped by a group of men in power who sought to protect the man who admitted twice to repeatedly raping me in every way that a girl can be raped. It felt as though the very people who were supposed to secure my justice bent me over a witness stand and judicially raped me.

    They judicially raped me and left me bruised, and bleeding on that courtroom floor.

    I couldn’t get back up until I read Dr. Freyd’s work on Betrayal Trauma, and Institutional Betrayal Trauma, and began to understand what had happened to me in that courtroom.

    I didn’t understand why I hurt so deeply, and suffered so profoundly for so long, until I read her work. Finally, someone had a word — a term — for my experiences and I was able to mentally contextualize what happened, and how I could finally heal.

    I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to Dr. Freyd and all of her colleagues and students who have researched Betrayal Trauma in its many forms. They have given me knowledge and awareness that has helped more than anything I could have dreamed possible over the past 35 years of searching for something that could ease the pain. They gave me a gift that led to regained hope, and a deeper understanding of the almost incomprehensible actions of those who betrayed me, and of my responses to those betrayals.

    What happens in a research lab matters to those of us in the “real” world.

    What happens at an institution of higher learning matters to those of us who have witnessed too much betrayal in our lives and in the lives of others.

    The actions of an institution in the face of allegations of wrongdoing matter. They matter to those if us who know how painful it is to suffer inaction that would prevent further harm. They matter to those of us who understand how it feels to see our cases buried from public view for political reasons. They matter to those of us who know how healing it is when institutions act in our best interest, and tell the truth. They matter to those of us who know, first-hand, how it feels when our justice is stolen.

    They matter to those of us who know just how important an apology can be to a victim/survivor.

    Thank you, members of this Coalition, for your courage. Thank you for speaking up and out. I hear you, and you give me hope for a better future.

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to raise awareness about sexual violence on our campus, and advocate for a safe and equitable educational experience.

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