When Laurie went to college in Chicago, she was all set to embark on a new life. But on the third weekend of her freshman year, Laurie was raped. And everything changed.
In the aftermath, Laurie reached out for help. But she didn't get any. Friends didn't believe her. The dean didn't support her/ Laurie had to fight not just for justice, but for understanding. Validation.
Laurie could have dropped out of college, she could have given up, but she carried on. And not even seeing her attacker on campus could stop her.
Laurie's story is an all-too familiar account of how the fight for justice is repeated in campuses and courtrooms around the world. Laurie never got the justice she deserved. But she got something else - a resolute sense of her own self, and her own strength. Laurie's #MeToo story is a testament to the strength and courage of people who have been wronged, but never stop fighting back.
About the Author
Laurie is an elementary teacher from Boston, Massachusetts who spent her undergraduate years studying early childhood education, then completed a Master's in Education. Her educational background has honed her empathy, adaptability, and human development skills. Her life was thrown into turmoil at 18 when she was raped on her third weekend of college. After being told not to go to the police, she navigated her university's hearing process and was silenced. She struggled in silence for years, on the brink of suicide, until she was finally able to get help. Through therapy she has accepted that what happened was not her fault and that her life has value. She is passionate about ending sexual assault on college campuses and elsewhere, and helping to expand the conversation on helpful services for survivors. She is now ready to share her own story and help others in the process.
Read an Excerpt
I was drunk to the point that I could barely stand as I leaned against the wall of the apartment, wishing I was back at the dorm, in bed. People laughed and talked as I lowered my head and closed my eyes. It was the third Saturday of my freshman year at a large university in Chicago, and I went to an apartment off campus with some friends. I use the term "friends" loosely here. One was my friend Sarah from high school, and we were hanging out with a few guys who I had met that night.
Earlier in the evening, we had been drinking in a guy named Paul's dorm. I was on my first Four Loko of four and I felt like a badass. If you are not aware, Four Lokos are fruit – flavored malt liquor beverages that are popular with high school and college students. They contain about four shots worth of alcohol, and are commonly referred to as "blackout in a can."
As I drank my disgustingly sweet beverage, we heard a knock on the door and I watched everyone hide their drinks. No one said a word; they just calmly put their drinks out of sight. One guy even put his beer in a drawer. I frantically put my watermelon Four Loko behind my back and Paul opened the door. A Resident Assistant (RA) then told us to, "Keep the volume down." RAs are slightly older students who can live in the dorms for free if they watch out for, and supervise, their younger peers. This RA didn't even come into the room. The thrill of not getting caught was exciting. We were drinking in the dorm and no one could stop us. I used to wonder whether my life would be better if that RA had caught us drinking, and the rest of that night had never happened.
This was the pre-gaming phase of the night (drinking and socializing before actually going out). Afterwards, we went to a party that was marginally fun, in an apartment off campus. The host was beyond drunk and her friends seemed annoyed when so many freshmen showed up. After the party died down, the people I had pre-gamed with went to the playground of a local elementary school to play around and sober up.
I swung on one of the swings and this guy Steven, who was friends with Paul, started talking to me. This was exciting for about two minutes, until I realized he was just asking if I wanted to pay him to get me food. Apparently, he was asking everyone. When I told him that I didn't want any, he walked away.
It was getting colder and it was late, so Sarah, Paul, Steven, and I went to an apartment off campus to avoid getting in trouble for going back to our dorms drunk. Sarah and I had met two of the guys who lived in the apartment before, when they had helped us lug a vacuum from the dorm mailroom to our dorm. Remember that vacuum.
There was a policy stating that if you showed up to the dorm drunk, you could get in serious trouble and even be kicked out of the dorm. I had even heard of them calling ambulances for people who were not drunk enough to need an ambulance – that was probably meant to keep people from dying, but it made us afraid to go home, so we stayed out.
At the apartment, everyone found a seat in the living room while I went to the bathroom. Sarah and I had gotten ready for the night listening to M83's "Midnight City" on repeat and I had experimented with my make-up, wanting to look grown-up and less like myself. In the mirror my make-up was wrecked, and I did my best to fix what I could with some wet toilet paper.
When I came out there was nowhere to sit, so I crossed the room and leaned against the wall, struggling to stay awake. One of the guys who lived there asked me if I wanted to lie down. I followed him into his bedroom and promptly passed out. For the purposes of this book, I will call him "Noah." I could never write out his real name countless times or make myself read it. Actually, I'm going to change everyone's names because they are real people and anything else would be unfair. I will not include the name of my university or the names of things that might make them identifiable either, because what happened were the actions of a few people and do not reflect the university as a whole. (More importantly, I do not want to be sued).
While I was unconscious, my friends left the apartment to go smoke in a park. Noah woke me up and we started making out. When he took off my shirt I told him, "You can take my bra off if you want to." By the time my friends came back, he was finished. He went to greet them and as they got settled, I was just exiting his bedroom. I wanted to leave the apartment. I begged my friend Sarah, my best friend since ninth grade geometry class, to come with me. She wanted to stay, so I left the apartment alone and went back to my dorm.
I don't know how long I sat on my bed. One of my roommates came home. I cannot remember if she asked me if I was okay or if I just started talking. I told her my friends had left me passed out in a guy's bedroom. She had no response, but speaking to her snapped me out of it. I needed to do something. I spent the next three hours in the shower.
It took me months to fully remember that night. It came back to me in pieces.
Our conversation when I had been leaning on the wall outside his bedroom door. He loved Chicago and earlier that day, his grandfather had taken him grocery shopping. We had both gone to Montessori schools and he was new to the school too; he had just transferred. The smell of my perfume. The glass of orange juice on his bedside table. His amber eyes. The song "The Way We Get By," which had been playing from his computer as I passed out. How he'd asked me if I was "comfy." How quickly things had changed and the realization that we were alone in the apartment. The dim lighting and how nauseous I was from the Four Lokos I'd had to drink. The physical pain that stayed with me for weeks.
What never left me though were those 10 words, "You can take my bra off if you want to." I'd never said those words before. I'd never had any intention of having sex with him. So then why had I told him he could take my bra off? What had I expected to happen? The guilt of those words stayed with me when I looked down at my body in the shower and saw the bite marks and bruises. In the months that followed, when I was too afraid to fall asleep until the sun came up and when I agonized over pursuing legal action, they were all I could hear. I felt dirty. I felt responsible.CHAPTER 2
The Dean of Students
Here is how trauma affects the brain. The part of your brain responsible for executive functions more or less shuts down, and your brain doesn't waste energy on making new memories. All of your energy is put into surviving. When you're met with an experience that is terrifying, you either fight, run away, or (what happened to me) freeze. Freezing is your body's last resort when your brain believes that you are going to die. If you are frozen you cannot protect yourself, but your brain is then able to minimize the fear and pain. It's like playing dead. If you don't move, maybe you'll be hurt less. I actually do not think saying fight, flight, or freeze is really accurate. When I realized we were alone in the apartment I tried to leave (flight), when he started to get forceful I tried to push him away (fight), and when that didn't work, I froze.
I struggled with my memories and feelings about that night. I knew that what happened hadn't been right, but did that make it rape? People got grabbed in dark alleys and raped at gunpoint. They didn't pass out in a stranger's bed and wake up to them kissing and undressing them.
After that night, I began to deteriorate rapidly. I was conflicted about what had happened, but I was certain about how terrified and ashamed I felt. In those first weeks, the only time I was out of the dorm was for class. I had begun to struggle with severe depression and anxiety.
After two weeks, and in a moment of desperation, I knocked on my RA's door and told her what had happened. Or I implied it. I couldn't bring myself to say anything specific.
"A couple weeks ago, I went to an apartment and I was drunk and I passed out and my friends left me and something happened."
The only thing that sticks out in my memory that my RA said was, "If this happened a couple weeks ago, why is it bothering you now?"
Did this mean I should have been over it? Or had what happened not been bad enough, if it took me two weeks to tell anyone?
The next day a woman from housing services called me. I'm assuming my RA was following some sort of protocol by telling this woman.
"I heard that you think something might have happened a few weeks ago."
"Um, yeah," I replied, humiliated.
"What do you want to do?"
"I think I want to go to the police." I was struggling with whether that was what I wanted to do. I had washed away evidence, but I was still bruised and that had to count for something.
"You think you want to go to the police? Or you want to go to the police?"
"I want to go to the police."
"So that would mean calling the police, and if you do that they would have to come all the way to campus and you don't want to waste their time, right?"
Of course I didn't want to waste their time. Clearly, what he did to me didn't matter enough to get the police involved, and I felt ridiculous for suggesting it.
"Your best option is to let the university handle it."
So, the woman persuaded me that the best thing to do would be to have a judicial case through my university's hearing committee. This meant meeting with the Dean of Students at my school and having to tell more people about what happened. I was afraid of what this case would mean, but I felt I needed to do something.
I looked up who the Dean of Students was and was a little apprehensive that it turned out to be a guy. But I decided this was something I needed to do. I emailed the Dean of Students to set up a meeting and, a few days later, I met with him to get some information on what a case would look like. I sat in his office on the second floor of the Student Center (the building on campus that houses the dining hall and administrative offices) and the large windows made me feel less trapped during our meeting. The Dean was in his mid- to late-thirties and had a calming way about him.
I sat facing his desk and could barely bring myself to look at him. I was so humiliated. I had a piece of paper in my hands from one of my classes that I kept folding into smaller and smaller pieces.
"What would a case look like if a student was assaulted?" I asked him. Even just saying "assaulted" was almost too much for me at this time and it felt better to ask for some hypothetical student and not myself.
"If a student was assaulted," he told me, "the first thing this student would need to do would be to write an account of what happened."
He explained that for the case, I would need to write up an account of that night and so would Noah. Then, based on that, Noah would either be found responsible or not – the university's terminology for guilty or not guilty. There would be a hearing and we both would be there, so I would have to face Noah. The Dean assured me that we would be separated by a screen, and as we all know, screens are soundproof. This made me incredibly anxious, but if found "responsible" Noah could have been suspended or expelled, so I decided it was worth it. I was too humiliated to ask anyone who had been there that night to testify (not that I was told that this was even an option), so I just went about typing up my account. But it wasn't that easy.
I tried to write out the narrative, but I was missing so many pieces. I could remember flashes of me just lying there. Why hadn't I fought harder? I could remember saying, "You can take my bra off if you want to," but that had been when he had seemed normal and I had never wanted anything more. So it was still rape, right? I don't know for certain what I wrote in my account because I have since deleted the file from my computer, not wanting to ever look at it again after the whole mess was over. But I wrote out what had happened as best I could.
The Dean had to be impartial I guess, but he seemed to genuinely believe me (when I finally admitted that the "student" I was referring to was me). When meeting with him I felt that I was being taken seriously and justice would happen. He was incredibly kind and acted like he cared. He didn't just talk to me about the case. He asked questions about how I was doing and what I was majoring in. His kindness made me feel that I was making the right decisions.
The case had many starts and stops. Some were my fault. I was afraid and confused. Some were just due to timing, such as a vacation (by the time the hearing was going to start, my university was starting a six-week break). Getting all of the players together wasn't easy either. During the time before and after the break, I was missing class and not turning in assignments. At the time, not coming back after vacation never occurred to me as an option. I was a college freshman and going back to school after vacation was what college freshmen did. The time away did make me feel more committed to the case and let me recharge a bit for what was to come.
At school, leaving my dorm was a terrifying event and I started having panic attacks. In January, the Dean said he would email my professors to let them know I had an excuse for my missing assignments and for missing class. When I went to speak with my rhetoric professor about some missing assignments, I brought up the email from the Dean.
"What email? You have until tomorrow to turn in all of your papers, or you will fail the class."
My professor told me to come to his office early the next morning to turn in my work and discuss my place in the class. I pulled an all-nighter, throwing every assignment together as best I could. I remember that one of the assignments was to create an ad for anything you wanted. I made an advertisement for Verizon that featured the main cast of Pretty Little Liars staring at their phones. It's a famous shot from the TV show. My tagline was, "Say goodbye to pretty little late fees." I thought that was clever.
I emailed the Dean to ask if he had emailed my professors as he said he would. He never responded. I made a lot of excuses for the Dean, thinking that he had my best interests at heart and that his non-response didn't mean he wasn't doing anything.
The next morning, half asleep, I walked to my professor's office to turn in my assignments. Sitting in front of his desk, I felt like a child in the principal's office. I had never had to meet with a teacher or a professor for anything that wasn't positive. There I was on the verge of failing his class and I felt like a failure. As I sat, I looked around his small, windowless office and at the pictures on his walls. It was too overwhelming to look at him and face how much control I had lost over my life and the failures this was creating. I wondered about one of the pictures of him that kind of looked like an ad, and I wondered if he had really been in an ad. This was my train of thought as he berated me for missing class. No, not berated. He wasn't interested in why I had missed class and I don't think he was terribly interested in whether I would miss any more. He just told me, "If you miss one more class, you will automatically fail." It was then that I realized missing class and not doing my work would hurt me, and that excuses don't mean much in college.
I didn't miss any more classes. Most nights I lay in bed terrified, waiting for the sun to come up. When my panic became overwhelming and I needed to get out of the dark, I would walk around the dorm or sit in the bright laundry room, sometimes up to between 10 and 15 times a night. My roommates had no idea what I was going through and they probably found me crazy and annoying. I sometimes watched Netflix, but the brightness bothered my roommates as they tried to sleep, and there was no reason for all of us to suffer. I tried melatonin and Tylenol PM, but nothing helped. I usually felt safe to fall asleep around eight in the morning, and with my class schedule my alarm went off at 10:00.
Time chugged on and finally the case was done, but it wasn't like I had been told it would be. I never had to face Noah. I never gave any testimony. I never went to a hearing. I just got an email that he had been found responsible and would be suspended for two terms. One of those terms would be in the summer when barely anyone took classes, so it really boiled down to a ten-week suspension. I was still relieved that I was getting some sort of justice; not the expulsion I had wanted, but something. But I was also confused about how they had had a hearing without me there. Still, I felt validated. What happened had mattered enough for him to at least be suspended. The Dean emailed to say this was effective immediately and to let him know if I saw Noah on campus, as he would be banned from the premises for the entirety of his suspension.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Liar Laurie"
Copyright © 2018 Laurie Katz.
Excerpted by permission of Trigger Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"Both timely and timeless, Liar Laurieis the powerful and heart-wrenching true story of one young woman on her journey to become a survivor instead of a victim, to choose life instead of death, truth instead of shame. Readers will undoubtedly find pieces of themselves in the pages of this bold, honest, and unvarnished memoirI cannot recommend this book highly enough." - Amber Smith, New York Timesbestselling author of The Way I Used to Beand The Last to Let Go