Envisioning a world free from violence

Annie was sitting in front of her computer on her carpeted floor, Skyping me from her tiny living room in Eugene, Oregon. She listened to me, almost methodically, as she drank her coffee.

Andrea was wide awake--it was 4:00 a.m. her time--as she sat alone in her dorm room in Kenan Community (a kind of student housing) at The University of North Carolina. She wasn’t crying, but I could see her shaking slightly and breathing harder as she finished telling me what had happened to her [one night] at an off campus party.  “Me too. It happened to me too,” I said.

 “I believe you,” Annie said, and with those three simple words, she became the first person to listen to my entire story of surviving sexual assault.

 We shared our stories, we believed each other, and we promised to support each other through the entirety of our journeys.

Although we are two women from very different backgrounds, we had both been drawn to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (a town nicknamed “The Southern Part of Heaven”) by the school’s competitive academics and by its strong sense of pride--by the lure of intellectual prospects and of belonging that all students applying to college yearn to feel.

We never expected to be writing a book before turning 30, much less taking on a 200 year old university and telling the world about it on the Oscar stage.

We never imagined that in our lifetime the President of the United States would say, “Survivors, I got your back,” or that revelations about the scope and institutional cover-ups of campus sexual assault would be on the front page of the New York Times, or on the cover of Time magazine.

But we also never thought that, in our lifetime, we would survive violence.

Nearly five years removed from the first time we met, we have devoted our lives to helping the world see survivors, holding our politicians and media accountable to survivors stories, and envisioning a world free from sexual violence.