Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic details of sexual assault and mentions of PTSD. The survivor of the assault chose to have her name mentioned in the article. The Stroud Courier staff chose not to include the name of the offender.
During her freshman year at ESU, all Stephanie Hawk wanted was friends. In high school, she never really clicked with anyone, so when she started college her goal was to make as many friends as possible.
She quickly developed a small group of friends who would float in and out of other small groups of friends. One day, while her group commingled outside of the University Center, a guy approached her. The two hit it off, chatting over a meal in the Union.
Before heading back to their dorms, they decided to exchange numbers.
Two days later on Sep. 11, 2016, she decided to invite him over for a movie night in her Lenape Hall dorm.
That will become a night she never forgets.
Almost three years later, Hawk has gone completely public with the details of her 2016 assault.
In a Facebook post, written on April 8, Hawk shared photos taken of her the night of the assault, the criminal complaint and the apology issued to her from the offender.
“My attacker still walks ESU free,” she wrote. “The nightmares and flashbacks keep happening more than usual lately and it’s time I brought light to this situation.”
The post received 182 reactions, 185 comments 522 shares and counting.
According to the police
From the beginning, the complaint said, Hawk was telling the offender “no” but he laughed and said that she “liked it.”
“I felt like posting it to bring awareness that the school has done barely anything,” Hawk said. “The judicial system has done nothing. It really bothers me that other women go through this and nothing is ever done about it.”
Dr. Doreen Tobin, vice president of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator and Campus Police were extremely helpful, Hawk said, but she still thinks the offender did not receive the proper punishment.
The offender was charged with indecent assault, harassment
According to the ESU Student Handbook,
A student who is given deferred suspension is considered “not in good standing” with the University.
Though they are still allowed on campus, they are denied certain campus privileges such as club activities or sports.
“The is fact that he got away with it, and I have to live with it for the rest of my life,” she said. “PTSD does not just go away. I have to live with it for the rest of my life.”
Around her sophomore year, Hawk started to speak out against sexual violence on social media. Since then she encountered hundreds of survivors of sexual violence.
“The amount of feedback I got from them was unreal and full of support,” she said. “It encouraged me to further speak out about other sensitive topics.”
Hawk’s story is all too familiar for ESU alumni Paige Taylor.
Last October, Taylor protested the university for harboring a student who allegedly assaulted her. Throughout the duration of the semester, Taylor wore shirts with messages condemning rape and ESU’s response. One of the shirts read: “My rapist still goes here.”
“It’s hard seeing someone else’s power taken away,” she said. “Sexual assault on college campuses is a civil rights issue. it impedes women’s right to an equal education. ESU is not some Ivy League school with a reputation to uphold, it does not rely on private donors, so why do they sweep things under the rug?”
To Hawk, Tayor said to keep standing up for herself.
“Find your voice, but don’t let what happened define you,” Taylor said. “You are so much more than someone who has been [assaulted]”
Hawk is still searching for closure after her assault. She plans to burn her court papers soon in the hopes that it brings some release. For now, she turns to her support system: her friends, boyfriend, and emotional support rabbit named Muppet.
Even though there are times that that day in September keeps Hawk up at night, she still encourages anyone who has been in her shoes to reach out to her.
“If anyone is going through this, feel free to reach out to me. I am always an open ear on campus,” she said. “I am very open with my experience with it and I hope that one day I get closure and he gets what he deserves.”
For resources for sexual assault and rape survivors on campus visit www.esu.edu/titleix or contact Doreen Tobin, vice president of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. ForCounseling & Psychological Services call (570) 422-3277 or visit them on the second floor of the Flagler Metzgar Center.
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