Tinecia Francis has not had the easiest life. When she was a child, she watched her father abuse her mother and was also molested by her father. Domestic and sexual violence has had a strong presence in her life so far.
During Francis’ sophomore year, she was sexually assaulted by a fraternity member while she was intoxicated and unable to give her consent. It was not until after she spoke with a close friend about the events of that night that she realized she had been assaulted. While sexual assault can be isolating, according to the Department of Justice’s study on Rape and Sexual Victimization Among College-Aged Females, one in six American Women had been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
Francis has also had to look her attacker in the face while on campus and in class. At a “Take Back the Night” event held in March, Francis saw her attacker.
“He was in the front of the line chanting and it made me really mad,” she said.
She reached out to some of her friends that were also in the fraternity and asked them how could they allow him to be in the front, knowing what he had done to her. The friends expressed that what had happened to her did not even cross their minds and she was left angry enough to take her frustrations public via Facebook.
The response she received was equally as angering.
“I think five people called me and it was more ‘Why would you do this to us? You’re selfish. You’re not thinking how this will affect the organization.’,” she said.
Francis was hurt and angry but cut off communication with those members of the organization and tried to return some normalcy to her life and began seeing a young man. In July, she was having a rough night and needed comfort and looked to him.
“He wanted to have sex and I didn’t,” she said. “He got mad and said you have to get the f—k out of here.”
The night ended in Francis calling the police but not pressing charges because he was also a fraternity member and she did not want to relive her previous experience. Francis realizes that she has experienced victim blaming and that has taken a toll on her. According to Southern Connecticut State University’s Rape Culture, Victim Blaming and the Facts page on their site, “Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse.”
This incident resulted in another Facebook post where Francis voiced her frustrations again. In this post, Francis said, “No, no longer will I ever be quiet. I will forever speak up and tonight will be the start of everything.”
Sierra Mannie, a friend of Francis, thanked her for her strength and bravery that it took to speak out and commented on how black women feel the need to protect black men.
“We are not their emotional workhorses,” Mannie said.
Even though Francis tries to be strong she has felt “unstable, upset and emotional” about what has happened to her and wishes that the young men she reached out to had understood how she felt. However, in her senior year she has found comfort and some healing in her studies and involvement in the Rebels Against Sexual Assault (RASA) and peer counseling.
Francis is a first generation college student from the island of Antigua and is studying criminal justice and hopes to work in situations similar to hers and hopes to encourage progression and help other victims in some way. Francis’ involvement with RASA is what has helped her greatly while healing.
“I try to be who I wanted when I was going through the same situation,” she said.
Hunter Grissom, treasurer of RASA, supports the idea of sexual assault survivors being involved with organizations like RASA and that “direct involvement, such as participation in public events and meetings can be beneficial.”
The group encourages creating a safer environment on campus and encouraging proper terms when discussing sexual assault survivors.
At this point in her healing process, Francis feels she is a survivor and is excited about being a peer educator and teaching students about consent and what it is.
“I am happy to help educate because I feel like education goes a long way,” she said.
Francis is one of the many survivors that speaks out on social media about sexual assault experiences.
In an article on thinkprogress.org, Tracey Cox, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center spoke on survivors speaking out.
“We’re seeing that over time as more and more people talk about it, the stigmas are slowly being shed,” she said. “People are feeling safe, they’re thinking, I can talk about this and people will believe me, people will support me.”
Francis is determined to rise above what was done to her.
“I can’t stay in this mental state forever, I don’t want it to make me self-destruct,” she said. “The reason why I am still in college is because I refuse to let that situation take away everything I worked so hard for.”