Alycia Bennett

College Student

Washington, DC

After the attack, I struggled with severe depression and insecurity for several years.

In 2010, I was raped in my dorm by a campus coordinator for a well-known non-profit organization. It occurred just before Thanksgiving. I was a freshman at a small college in Illinois, and after the assault many people on the campus found out. People spoke to me differently. My boyfriend at the time dumped me and accused me of lying about the rape and said I was "dirty." I suffered severe depression, thought about suicide frequently and felt completely alone.

After the attack, I struggled with severe depression and insecurity for several years. I have worked tirelessly to rebuild my self-esteem, complete college and continue my career goals. With multiple medical problems and financial limitations, it was difficult to stay motivated. I made it though. I leaned in and I completed community college and was then accepted to my dream school, American University.

I am now a transfer student at AU, however, I found out that my balance for school would be much higher than I anticipated at the beginning of the semester. I had exhausted all financial options and was told I would need to drop out of American University after only one semester If I couldn't pay the $15,000 tuition bill by May. I decided that I would fundraise for my education, work full-time while in college and do everything possible to ensure that I continue my education. American University represents hope for me after going through so much at my last college and working through my rape trauma over the years, there is nothing I want more than to succeed in my studies.

I will not allow depression, insecurity and rape trauma to define this new year. When I wake up unmotivated and doubt my abilities to overcome the obstacles in front of me, I remember why it’s important for me to push on. Many rape survivors don’t tell their stories, suffer the trauma alone for years. Some even drop out of college altogether. I want to continue college and continue the goals I had before the assault. In the process of leaning in and speaking out about on-campus sexual assault and fundraising for American University, I hope to also inspire other rape survivors to speak out and follow their dreams.

I am more determined than ever to fundraise my remaining balance and succeed in my studies at AU. I hope to raise awareness about on-campus sexual assault and follow my dreams of working in Middle East Diplomacy. This journey of fundraising for my education has empowered me in so many ways. I feel stronger as a person, I feel supported by several academic and feminist communities, I feel inspired by the rape survivors who have reached out to me and I truly feel like the sky is the limit. I feel confident not only my abilities as a student, but also in the abilities of women and girls everywhere.

Get more from Lean In

Start a Circle

We make it easy to get started, and provide all of the materials you’ll need to run your Circle

Start your Circle

Join a Circle

Women around the world are meeting regularly in small groups to support each other and learn new skills–join one today

Find a Circle

Learn New Skills

Use our library of education resources to build new skills and support your career

Build your skills