I Was Raped. Should I Tell The Committee?

Sarah was finishing up a stellar undergrad career at a very selective university, and then she was raped. That changed things, but it didn’t derail her, and she needs some advice on how to continue righting the ship.

Hi Judge Josh,


I’m a longtime reader and fan of your Q&A section, just never thought I’d be emailing you myself. First time for everything, I suppose.

I’m a second-semester senior graduating a year early, and I’d like to go straight into grad school if at all possible. The issue that I have is with a dip in my GPA this semester.

OK. That doesn’t sound too bad…

I’ve pulled around a 3.8 all through college, which makes me a competitive applicant for my target grad schools, if not a surefire success (think big, British and outrageously selective).

Simon Cowell. Or Oxford. Got it. πŸ™‚

The problem is this semester: I was sexually assaulted right after Halloween, and finishing the semester at all required a lot of emotional stamina and strength.

Good Lord. I am sorry to hear that. I’m also gonna spare you the platitudes and eggshell-walking that you’ve probably heard way too much of already (from strangers, no less) and say congrats on mustering the strength to keep going through all of it.

A received a few A’s, a few A-‘s, and then a few grades that I’m not sure about yet but I’m sure are not good at all.


I just don’t know how – or even if – this should be addressed in the application.

Well, it’s gonna depend on how bad the final grades are, and if they knock you down to the point where they become something you are going to need to explain in order to get what you want. Let’s just say Oxford, to spare me some typing. πŸ™‚

There’s no spot for “what traumatic event happened to you that killed your GPA?” and even if there was, I find it a lot harder to talk about this than I would my parents’ divorce or being diagnosed with something.

True, there’s no spot for that, but there often is a more open-ended personal statement, etc., and that’s a place where you might want to consider discussing it: a) IF you think you need to, if the GPA drop is bad enough that you feel you have explain it away, and then, of course, b) if you can bring yourself to do so.

It was hard enough to discuss my assault with my university and my professors; I’m just not sure how I can bring it up without sounding like I’m begging for empathy or something.

I understand that completely.

I’m not sure if I made any sense. My foremost priority this semester after making sure I was physically okay was trying to salvage my GPA, especially because it IS such an important semester for me, grad school-wise. Everyone who tells me that my GPA doesn’t matter clearly doesn’t know the British system, and all I’ve wanted my whole life was to go to Oxford or Cambridge.

Well, even a guy like me who very often says “GPA doesn’t matter” always hedges that with “…unless you’re going to grad school.” So sure, it matters a lot, in the UK or the US or anywhere else.

I refuse to let the assault ruin my life more than it has… I’m just not sure how to talk about it without sounding like I’m trotting out a sob story for pity.

Well, here’s the thing about that. You’ve got two forces butting heads inside you, right? You want to put the assault behind you and move on, BUT, you want to go to Oxford. And they might need you to explain the GPA, and that might mean you need to rehash the assault.

So, when it all comes down, you have to choose which of those things you want more. You’re never gonna hear me tellΒ a rape victim that she must tell a group of strangers about the whole ordeal. However, I get the sense from you that you’re pretty motivated to do this whole Oxford thing, and will probably gut out at least one more retelling of the incident if that’s what’s required to get what you want — and, as you say, to not let it derail your life any more than it already has.

Thanks for letting me vent, and thanks for any help you can provide.

Of course. Let me just add that, if you do decide to tell the story, then there are very few people who are going to read that essay and think you’re trying to heap pity on yourself, and then knock you for doing so. I mean, it’s rape — shy of getting killed, it’s the worst thing that can happen to someone. So even the most hardened among us are not going to read your story of rape and think about what a whiner you are.

Second, I think that if you tell the story, you may end up making yourself look like an even stronger candidate than you would’ve been without the dip in grades. I mean, as you know, it takes giant balls to talk about something like that with anyone, let alone a group of anonymous strangers.

Also, the rape and its aftermath and how you’re handling it does actually change your story a bit. In my opinion, it’s evidence that you’ll let nothing stop you, ever. And that, as I have mentioned elsewhere on this site from its very earliest days, is the no. 1 thing we (scholarship judges, but also admissions committees) look for when we’re handing out money: students who we know are going to make it. You know, ones who won’t fail out, drop out, or just start generally half-assing it when things get difficult.

If I’m reading your application and you tell me your story and, in whatever words you choose, tell me that you’ll be damned if the rape or anything else is going to stop you from achieving your goals, then you’ve won me over. And very quickly. LET HER IN. She will not disappoint us.

The fact that you’re plowing forward attests to all the good qualities that people see and have seen in you up to this point. I’m not going to be so insensitive as to say “turn it into a positive!” because that’s just messed up. But let’s strip away ALL the other bullshit details that are ever written about on these pages and ask the only question that ever matters: “What do you want out of life?”

For you, right now, I think that’s Oxford. And the followup question is: “Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?”

I sense that you’re willing to do a lot to get there, and if that means telling your story, you will. If you’re not willing to tell the story, then hey — you’ve still got my full support, because that’s a personal choice you have to make. But still, *that’s* really what the choice boils down to:

Thing I Really Want vs. Shitty and Uncomfortable Obstacle To Getting It.

Don’t worry about the committees — they’ll be fine with it. And please, let us know what you decide to do, if you’re OK with sharing it.

— Heavy topic today, lads and lasses. Should she talk about the assault, or should she keep it private? Let us know in the comments below.

36 thoughts on “I Was Raped. Should I Tell The Committee?”

  1. I think Sarah should tell the committee of what happened. It is always hard to tell someone of being a victim like that. I know, I was molested when I was little by my babysitter. But the only way to really heal is to talk about what happened and to realize that what happened to her is not her fault. It will only help her to tell what happened and put the fault on the scumbag who hurt her. I read a book called “Hush: Moving from Silence to Healing after Childhood Sexual Abuse” by Nicole Braddock Bromley. I know the title says childhood abuse, but it helps adults also.

    I know that Sarah is looking to get into grad school, as am I. Don’t let what that idiot did to you make you feel like you need to be silent. Let your voice be heard. It never hurts to speak out and let people know what happened.

  2. Woo. Heavy, is right.

    I think you’re spot on with “What do you want out of life?” because that is the ultimate question. If you don’t speak up about this period of time in your life, it’s almost as if you’re being victimized again. Raped once, and then made fearful a second time, kwim? Of course, if you churn out a couple A’s, and a couple B’s….might not even NEED addressing. Could be you make it to The Interview and you’ll have to matter-of-factly explain it there.

    What do you want out of life? What steps would you need to take to get there? What are the (perceived) obstacles to getting what you want? How can you overcome them? If you answer these questions, you may find you can reconcile the rape situation and put it to rest, and also pave the way to grad school too.

  3. Sarah, you are not the only person dealing with this. A very close friend of mine was also sexually assaulted shortly after Halloween, and because she couldn’t deal with it, she withdrew (fail) from all her classes for the semester.

    No matter what you decide to do, you are not alone. If you still can’t decide what to do after reading all of this, talk to the sexual assault hotline on your campus. Ours has one, and my friend said they were very helpful and supportive when she needed them. They’ve probably dealt with something similar to your situation before.

    Good luck and godspeed.

  4. I have a question i am currently in an ethics class and prejudice became very obvious within the class and from the professor. There were some things said that really offended me and I wanted to drop the class. I was not able to drop the class so after a few weeks of conseling I am back in participating. However I am just now catching up with only two weeks left and my grade is suffering which could possible threaten my financial aid. Any advice?

  5. Of course u should tell! Speak up and protect other females of that campus. At my campus they announce to the whole school to watch out for people who are a threat to the school. If your school does nothing go to the police immediately!

  6. Elisha Hurlocker

    Take care of yourself first. Being raped is a big deal, and I don’t think its wise to just continue your plans. Take time and heal. Make sure your emotionally well before you make any big choices( like going to college.)

  7. You nailed it. The positive that the university needs to see is that she is working hard through some rough stuff and not only surviving, but doing well. To pull off two or three As after something like that is awesome. It’s not that she is asking for sympathy, it’s an explanation as to why there was a dip in her grades and why it shouldn’t reoccur next year. Tough, touchy, emotional – and yet, I find myself really pulling to see her not only get in, but go on to bigger and better things in life.

  8. Without a doubt you should find a way to let them know why your gpa may have dropped. I was sexually assaulted after my freshman year and it took me three bad semesters to pull myself out of the whole so I seriously commend you on getting those A’s. I talked to my law school advisor as well as law school admissions and they said it is better to tell something that heavy then omit it and risk not getting admitted. There are some schools that have an extra essay in which you can tell of hardships you overcame during your undergrad experience so that would be a good opportunity to express that. If there is no option to explain, see if they have interviews or contact the school and ask what you can do. You don’t have to tell them the details of what happened, the important facts are how it effected you and how you overcame it. Good luck Sarah and I hope your dream comes true.

  9. I was in a situation somewhat related. My mother fell very ill and had to be take to a hospital several hours away from home during my last semester of college and I became my little brother’s primary care taker. I had to drive an hour each way to and from school everyday to take care of him and my grades took a hit.
    I did address it in my personal statement though I really didn’t want to look like I was fishing for pity. I did what was suggested her and said that despite this I still did well in other semesters and managed to complete my final semester.
    I wish you all the best with your future.

  10. I agree with many of the writers, in that i would disclose, though you could describe what happened as anything from “extreme sexual and emotional trauma” to calling it what it was with similar impact.

    The one thing I may add to strengthen you case is to volunteer for an ‘academic probation,’ out of the gate. Ground your argument in your high performance up until the experience, and your commitment to maintaining that performance if admitted. I doubt any admissions board would take you up on your offer, but it would illustrate that YOU know what you’re capable off, and that you’re willing to put it on the line.

  11. I think she can explain this way; that a self-limiting medical condition caused the grade drop, that she has treated for it (the PTSD that comes from being raped), and overcome it and is ready to go on with her life. she doesn’t need to go into any more detail than that, unless the committee presses her for specifics, then she can divulge what happened.

    Good luck. I was raped as a teen and in took me many years to move past the experience. The way my school took the news was almost as bad as the rape itself. I hope things are better nowadays.

  12. If you are not willing to tell a committee or write about it in a formal application I would suggest meeting or calling the graduate advisor and having a professional but personal discussion. I personally think its amazing that you were able to continue at all and that you managed to keep getting A’s. I recently graduated from RIT and was accepted with a 2.98 gpa from Carnegie Mellon. One that suffered because of a similar situation. I never mentioned it in my application, but realized after that I could have. A fellow grad student of my made her photography thesis on the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. The academic atmosphere was supportive, accepting, and patient with her as she worked through her own trauma in her photography. Her main purpose was not to make art therapy but to proliferate a discussion on sexual abuse. I recommend that you look at her work, which is powerful because she spoke. http://www.amberjohnston.com/. She found that people are more ready to have a conversation about abuse when she spoke at a national conference last march.
    I hope this helps.

  13. I was wondering the same thing – I lost a year and a half of my life (and a huge chunk of GPA, didn’t get into school i wanted, failed out of community college, lost my job, almost lost my boyfriend) to PTSD due to Rape. I’m doing a lot better now, luckily I am in art school where I didn’t have to explain anything but my portfolio.

    I’m glad this topic came up.

  14. I’m sorry this happened,

    I agree that the fact that you continued in school (and are continuing still) shows amazing strength and determination that would be commendable in every respect. I have to disagree with Josh about a majority of audiences feeling empathy for situations like this. It’s a really optimistic take where sometimes the reality is (depending on where you live and the local culture) sometimes rape is not taken very seriously when it should be. Growing up I’ve heard too many accounts of women being considered “weak” or “easy” for being victimized and less repercussions are taken against the victimizers who are really the ones with problems. (In other words, some people do blame rape victims for the situation or think they are lying or exaggerating.)

    I’m sorry this sounds so creepy but I think it is a concept to hold in mind when you are writing. Of course I think we all should live so that speech is not restrained or censored and who we truly are can be illuminated through honesty. I do hope that judges will be as open and empathetic as Josh is, and I do believe it could very easy enhance your application if done well–especially if there are women on the judging communities and it is generally a liberal place–which universities do tend to be.

    I think if you wrote it well with a lot of clarity and in a voice that does not sound victimized that it would be optimum. If you sound really hurt and angry (which you probably are) sometimes people might read into that as weakness/instability. The people who process issues like this best are often people who talk about it with a lot of compassion and empathy for the other person/society, in this way the person whose attempting to take power away seems much weaker than the one who has healed and moved on.

    It sounds like you’ve done this and are continuing to do it now, just be sure if you are wondering if judges will misinterpret your experience (and ignorant/bigot people have been known to) to carefully frame this experience in a way that highlights your personal strengths and illuminates in an honest and empathetic way. If you read a sentence and it doesn’t feel right (like it seems as though it was written from a victimized mindset) then I would definitely edit and rephrase it. I’m having a hard time really explaining this style of writing, I think Alice Walker is a writer who does this a lot, if you pick up one of her books ever she often writes with venom for issues around sexism, racism and inhumanity but it’s so compassionate at the same time you could never doubt the power of her haunting message. I think if you tell your story, you should tell it with strength and never with a waver or stutter in your voice.

    ?The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.? ~Walker

  15. I think if you put Damon’s answer and Mom to 3’s answer in a bag and shake, you have a result that may protect you from having to divulge, and present to them an offer they could consider if on the fence in accepting you to the school. Good luck. As with so many others, I dealt with sexual assult in the past and it is no easy thing to get over. But I can tell you are strong and will no doubt get to where you plan to be.

  16. I too was raped in college, but I was too scared at the time to say anything. I didn’t write about it in my grad school essays because I was too ashamed of it and didn’t seek help. It also had a somewhat smaller impact on my GPA because I was studying abroad and the grades didn’t transfer.

    I think there is nothing wrong with mentioning something like this in your application essay if it may help explain a dip in your performance. However, it’s a very personal decision and you might be able to get away with not saying anything at all. I’d weigh a few things:

    1. The type of program you are applying for and the general tolerance for “personal” stuff in the academic community which you aspire to join. As backward as it might seem, I’d think carefully before dislosing personal stuff like this if you’re applying for to a psych grad program. For instance, some doctoral programs in psychology don’t look kindly on that type of disclosure at all, even if the person has overcome the hardship. Your current professors should be able to help you determine whether this applies in your case.

    2. Make sure you can convey that you truly have dealt with or are dealing with the aftermath of such a traumatic experience. It strikes me that the end of October is very, very recent, and if I were reading an essay now from someone who was recently raped, I’d wonder if the candidate had really finished dealing with it and/or might have trouble performing well in my program. That’s not to say that you can’t be still dealing with it, but to simply state, “I was raped, my grades suffered as a result, but I’m fine now.” would cause me to raise my eyebrows. I’d need to see some evidence to back that up, or at least acknowledgement that this has been really, really difficult, but you’re getting help and anticipate that you’ll be able to manage the painful emotional stuff while balancing the demands of a rigorous academic program.

    3. If you mention it, be prepared to talk about it in the interview. That’s not going to be easy, and if you think it will be hard to do that without breaking down, it might not make sense to say anything. Then again, if you really performed uncharacteristically badly, it’s going to come up in the interview anyway.

    4. If the schools that interest you are only in the UK, definitely get some advice from someone who knows that culture and the uni admissions process over there. It strikes me that Brits are a lot more tight lipped about stuff like this. There might not be the same tolerance for personal disclosure over there as there is here in the U.S.

    Finally, if all else fails (and I hope it doesn’t), and you find your efforts are thwarted, please do not despair! Know that you will prevail and overcome this obstacle. It’s always possible to re-apply or find other ways to reach your dream. I think the most important thing is that you take the time to take care of yourself. There’s nothing that would be more convincing of your maturity than an essay that states that you confronted this horrible event, took some time off to take care of yourself and heal, and are ready to approach this next stage in your life with a sense of power and commitment.


  17. I think you should tell them and explain how you overcame that set back in order to keep fighting to reach your goal.
    Rape and violence against women is a serious issue and often women do not get counseling and it slowly eats them alive like a cancer destroying everything they set out to do.
    My advice is; PLEASE make sure you keep talking to someone about this incident and your feelings…don’t lock it away inside you, vent, talk, trust at least one counselor or friend and talk about your feelings and emotions often.

    Next, if your grades turn out to be as bad as you think, then by all means, YES, tell them what happened to you, let them know it took a little out of you for a little bit, however; you overcame this obstacle in your life and perservered through it all.

  18. I think she should talk about it. In addition, is she seeing a therapist? if so she should discuss that too. I admire her strength and good luck.

  19. I told my story and it was perhaps the most therapeutic thing I ever did to recover from the rape that I experienced my freshman year of college. I managed to get into every grad school I applied for. Telling your story shows that you can get through anything and grad school puts you through HELL!

  20. I am on the academic standing committee of my program,and we would have helped you with that GPA. Maybe extra time to finish requirements, maybe ‘pass’ grades, but we would work with you. See if your undergrad program can help you out that way. The problem with including it in the essay is that they might weed you out by your grades and never read it.

  21. I believe that you should talk about it. I had a friend who was shot several times during robbery at his work place. At that time, he was a full time student with gpa of 3.9. However after he escaped with his life, his gpa went down to 2.6. He graduated with 2.9 gpa and still got accepted to law school. He told the law school he got accepted into what happen to him and his gpa. I believe you will be fine if you tell them.

    Good luck

  22. Hi Sarah-

    First, let me say that I am terribly sorry to hear that you have had to live through this terrible ordeal.

    In July this year, I finished a master’s degree at the University of Oxford. While I can’t say that I know what it feels like to be sexually assaulted, I DO know what it feels like to be dealt a bit of adversity. In my third year of college, I was diagnosed with cancer the semester before I was to leave for my study abroad year in Ireland. This did cause a bit of upheaval in my study schedule, grades, and work life.

    That being said, I was offered a place at Oxford based on the strength of my application, with the condition that I maintained a 3.75 GPA. It was impossible at this point in my college career to attain a 3.75 generally, but I called my faculty (because at both Oxford and Cambridge, the faculty makes admission decisions and then you’d be placed in a college automatically if you’ve been accepted) and explained that I could not achieve the 3.75 in all my classes, but I had achieved that in classes in my major. The faculty confirmed that would not be a problem and in October 2009 I matriculated.

    Having spent a year there, there are a few things I can tell you about Oxford at least: the people reading your application ARE actual humans and very respected members of their fields. They want to see professionalism with personality. I do not think that you should skip over what has happened to you, it has affected you in your classes and will continue to affect you as you study in England. However, you should take care to tell your story with tact and emphasize not how detrimental to your grades your assault was, but how you have managed to turn around and persevere despite this horrific event. By doing this, you’ll show strength of character, determination, and tenacity: all of which are required to study successfully at Oxford.

    If you can take your story and make it not about the event that disrupted your undergraduate studies but about your process of moving forward, together with the strength of the majority of your studies, Oxford/Cambridge will most likely appreciate your frankness and tact and be seriously impressed with your brave choice to share, rather than considering your story a cry for pity.

    I hope you find this useful. Good luck on your application, would love to hear how it works out for you!!!

  23. As a survivor of physical domestic abuse and sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult, I can understand your hesitance in rehashing what was likely the worst experience in your entire life; however, you did what so few rape victims can do – you moved forward. You received the assistance you needed to help you move beyond the sexual assault without allowing it to dictate your life in a manner where the fear paralyzes you. I have no idea where you received the help you needed to move beyond the abuse but it is more than apparent you took the best of the therapeutic assistance, put it to use in your everyday life, and moved forward versus falling backwards to the point where you gave up. If nothing else, you deserve major kudos for surviving not only physically or emotionally but also psychologically.

    I cannot imagine any college admissions board or scholarship board faulting you for lower grades during such a trying time as you worked to regain control of your life, your body, and your mind as well as your inner strength in order to move forward in life. This is nowhere near the definition of whining. It is the epitome of strength of enduring a bad situation while not allowing that horrible situation to dictate the path you choose to follow in your life.

    Trust me when I say there are many others of us out here who spent our time trying to regain control of our lives and letting go of the past. Sure, the scars and wounds will always be present but the important part is not allowing this incident to control your future. The sexual assault will always be a part of you and of your life. Oh how I wish I had a magic wand or the power to make this entire nightmare disappear but there is no magic wand or special powers to delete these memories from your mind; however, you don’t need a magic wand.

    Everyone reading your story can easily see that you are a strong person, strong enough to push ahead even when the memories are so vivid and real they invade your dreams turning them into nightmares and/or the experience itself makes it more difficult for you to trust but you will survive. There is courage and strength in your words. As Judge Josh said, the fact that you are working hard to push forward with your life after experiencing what can be described only as the most intimate and horrifying experiencing a woman can endure and survive makes you an excellent candidate for any college, even and probably most especially Oxford or Cambridge.

    Sarah, I am certain you have reached a point where you know this already but I want to remind you again… It takes a strong woman to go through what you have, make it through to the other side of that pain mixed with unfounded yet often present embarrassment or feelings that make you question if it were your fault, and learn over time with the help of therapy that you did not ask for this to happen nor are you responsible for it either. You ARE a strong woman who has made a choice to not allow this invasion of your person to get in the way of your dreams for your future.

    From one woman who survived a similar assault to another, I commend your efforts and truly hope you are able to attend whichever college you prefer most. Although, I must say I am envious of the fact that if you go to Oxford, you will be able to visit the Shelley Memorial in person. It is among a list I keep of things I would like to see before my vision disappears forever (retinal eye disease) and before I die (severe stages of Lupus (SLE) and Sjogren’s Disease). If you make it to Oxford vs Cambridge, think of me when you visit the Shelley Memorial. At least I will know there is someone out there who has the ability to take the time to enjoy the memorial statue. Think of it as allowing me to live vicariously through you. (grin) Most important of all, I want you to live, learn, and one day find all the happiness your heart can hold.

    Best of wishes,

  24. Hello Sarah. The first thing I want you to know is that GOD loves you, and HE wants you to forgive your offenders. Please do well by telling the admission committee about the incident, knowing fully well that you are not in the best state of mind. And in you present state of mind, it will be very difficult for you to bring out your best. It’s also very important that you seek for help from a Psychologist, who is an elderly man and preferably a practicing Christian. I pray for you that you will live to experience the Salvation of GOD, and live to be the best GOD wants you to be in JESUS’ name. GOD BLESS YOU, Sarah

  25. Its an unfortunate thing to hear Sarah, you just have to pray for God’s will to be done. In my country, whether you tell them or not, anybody can cook up the lie and fake the medical report, so I pray God helps you in your genuine case. Goodluck

  26. Oh my… Heavy indeed. It’s a very smart idea to take an unfortunate event in your life and turn it into a tool for improvement. My hat goes off to you. What is yours will eventually be yours. Best Wishes. DTT πŸ™‚

  27. Sarah,
    A similar thing happened to me and I had to tell my story to a panel of strangers to get what I wanted (School). Although it was very hard for me to bring up the past, I did. Now I put my story to rest and will never revisit it again. So, I’m trying to say it was worth it for me to tell my story and get where I wanted to be with school.
    Hope this helps :))

  28. My sincere sympathies and my enthusiastic congratulations go out to you girl! Josh is right. Talking about the rape not only explains the bad grades away; it also shows that you’re one of the strongest people around. But only you can decide if you can bring yourself to talk about it or not. Remember, too, that–for better or for worse–some of the people on the admissions committee will become your profs and will remember you as the woman who got raped.

    Consider this your virtual hug and pat on the back!

  29. As a fellow survivor of 23 years, I can tell you that it never goes away, and no matter how long it’s been it’s still hard to talk about it. First of all, I hope you’re seeing a therapist. I waited and found that while I didn’t let it affect the conscious aspects of my life, looking back I saw the influence on my choices that I couldn’t see in the moments I was making them.
    If you aren’t ready to speak out to strangers about what happened to you, possibly a careful wording that makes it very clear that this serious and life-altering event happened to you without saying exactly what it is will be easier for you. You can always say that you were the victim of a serious and very personal violent crime, for instance. People usually get the hint that it could be that without feeling too much liberty to ask too many questions.

    If you need someone to talk to, Josh knows where to find me. I’ll send him an email that it’s OK to give you my email address if you want to contact me.

    Good luck in everything you do. Don’t ever let them steal your dreams!

  30. Hi Sarah,
    Reading this hit close to home. I can understand you have been through a lot. I have been in the same boat for the past 8 months.
    I was raped May 3rd 2010, a few days before I ended my freshman year of college. I had never had a boyfriend, or even kissed a guy until I got to college. I was saving myself for my future husband; but instead someone very mean took that forcefully from me.
    Honey I sit here 8 months later, in a new school, with many new people around me and a whole new life style I never thought I would have. By the grace of God (something I am still trying to comprehend) I am happy, I have a great boyfriend and I am at a new school and my life is still moving forward. I pray for the same for you, I am not saying that I am always happy, I have terrible days, and sometimes terrible weeks, as you may be able to agree with, but the grace of God continues to make me better everyday.
    I explained my situation in my application, I also explained to my counselor that I am having a very hard time focusing in school. Therefore I will most likely have a hard time doing school. It’s not asking for pity, you are just getting some help moving your life forward.
    You deserve that!
    I wish you the best in everything you do! Continue to heal yourself and always know that you still deserve everything you did before that happened to you.
    May God’s grace be with you and love you, and help you feel whole again.



  31. Surviving it makes you way stronger than those that can’t… It shows your determination, your dedication, and how much this truly means to you. Yes, it is embarrassing and hurtful to share, but keep in mind that those committees are locked down by privacy laws, so its not like they will go out and tell everyone. If you think the dip in your GPA is going to affect their decision, by all means, tell them… Getting into Oxford is way more important…

    You’re stronger than you think, and I think that a person who can survive that along with still getting good grades is an amazing person who can do anything their mind is set to… I am betting the Oxford admissions people would think similarly…

  32. I noticed my friend and colleague Fiona posted a link to my art about this topic. I wanted to also offer the link to my written thesis


    which I believe does a good job of talking about this taboo subject with an air of confidence and universality that goes beyond the personal experience. It is easy to remain a victim, and it is important when writing about this in a professional manner that you have a strong grounding as a survivor. I also think you have to decide whether or not you are ready to continue with school. If you have dealt with this trauma and feel confident I would say go for it but I know PTSD and I know it can erupt at anytime. And once you get into school it would be a terrible waste if you are too distracted by the PTSD symptoms to really appreciate your education. There is absolutly no shame in taking some time for yourself to heal. An emotional scar is the same as a physical one, you need time to heal. Some people take longer than others. It took me 15 years before I was even ready to start my healing process. So just make sure you do what is best for you.

    I think the acceptance committee will look at your application the same whether you wait or go straight through but I do think you should mention the rape as something that effected your grades then but is no longer an issue as you have overcome and become stronger for it.

  33. I think that it is important to tell about the rape, so the college board understands your dip in grades. I would suggest actually talking to your current college counselors, or even an entrance councilor AT Oxford for the best way to do this. The story doesn’t have to be long, and you don’t have to go into details you aren’t comfortable with. Instead focus on the recovery and focus that you went through afterwards; that is the most important part: You survived, you are strong, you still kept on going. I do hope you have people to talk too, and remember that you are strong and can do anything now!

  34. Thanks, Josh for your sensitive reply to Sarah. I agree that Sarah should wait for her grades and GPA before deciding if it is necessary to write about her trauma in her essay. I also agree that only the insensitive louts of the world would hold a rape or an admission of it up as a sign of pity-mongering.

    If Sarah is worried about that stigma, however, she should preface her trauma with the steps she has taken to overcome the CRIME committed against her, and the measure of success that she experienced in moving past her difficulty during the grading period in question. I think it is also a good idea to mention that one of her goals is to NOT let the assault against her deter her from her ultimate goals. I think that the A’s and
    A-‘s she earned were enough evidence of her resolve. Ultimately, the only things that will help Sarah heal are time, counseling to help her deal with the situation and understanding of others, as well as not being victimized again.

  35. sarah,
    i just wanted to say that you’re not alone, and i look up to you. i had the same thing happen to me, except i’m in my freshman year of college. i applaud your hard work, and i know it’s hard, but you can do it! it’s difficult to discuss such a traumatic event, but it really does show how strong of a person you really are. πŸ™‚ good luck to you!

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