This is the story of Jenna Mae Zavitz. She gave us a very emotional interview about sexual assault and her road to recovery. If we are ever going to put an end to violence and sexual assault we need to become aware of how deep this problem runs and to take a stand that says we will not tolerate it!
The Story of Jenna Zavitz
By Jenna Zavitz
I posted a status on Facebook over two years ago about my experience of being sexually assaulted. I received loving support from friends and family, however there was backlash as well. I was called a liar, attention seeker and that I deserved to get sexually assaulted. I was absolutely shattered. I lost a part of myself that night, I was scared of my attacker, and I was afraid to be around people. The negative comments left me feeling hopeless. My intention was to share my story because I felt alone and scared. I didn’t know anyone else in my life who had to deal with something like this. I thought if I spoke out, others would as well.
I needed to know that everything was going to be okay.
My name is Jenna Mae and I am a survivor of sexual assault. My story is about having the courage to break the silence surrounding the stigma of being a victim to sexual assault. My story begins during my second year of college, I was an undergraduate in Journalism Broadcasting. I had only been in classes for three weeks. At the time I was dealing with a broken heart. My first love had broken up with me two weeks before we were supposed to move in together. I thought the new college year would be a fresh start for the both of us because we had a tough year prior.
Right before moving away to college I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD from years of being bullied in school. I was barely eating after the breakup and as a result I lost over fourteen pounds in under two weeks. Even though I felt like I was dying inside I put on a fake smile and I acted like everything was okay. I moved away to college and I found myself spiralling down the wrong path finding myself using dating apps and posting provocative pictures on social media. But mostly I found myself not caring for my own wellbeing and body which took a toll on my mental health.
My attacker was my grade nine crush. We had never talked so I was surprised to see that he had messaged me. I was excited because I thought, “he knows who I am.” He asked me to hang out that night and I agreed, but I informed him that it was only to hang out and do nothing more. Little did I know that night would change my life forever. I feel as though a part of me died that night. I can remember the next morning feeling numb. I honestly didn’t know how to feel at first because I was in utter shock. My brain was like a cassette tape. I kept rewinding the entire night back in my head. Trying to fathom what had just had happened to me. I remembered never consenting to his touch. During the attack I experienced an out of body reality. Inside I was screaming for help and I felt the overwhelming urge to runaway, but I just couldn’t move. When I came conscious
during the attack I was kicking and punching. All I remember was me saying NO multiple times and begging him to stop as he was ripping off my clothing.
I could smell the liquor on his breath. He kept biting me when I turned away from a his kisses. His heavy hands around my throat is burned into my memory. I was gasping for air while my attacker was choking me. My brain felt like it was going to explode. I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker. Every time I would fight him his fingers would get tighter and tighter around my neck. I could feel him sliding himself in between my legs. Luckily, for me I was on my menstrual cycle and my tampon is what “stopped him” from entering me because it was “blocking him.” At that same time, I could hear his room mates. I was going to scream for help, but his hand were over my mouth.
The roommates broke down his door and ran in and jumped on us. I thought this was my escape, but no I was so wrong. They were trying to pull the covers off of my attacker and I was pulling back on the covers. They were asking to join in on the “fun.” Tears were strolling down my face and the one boy yelled abruptly, “What’s wrong with her.” My attacker kicked them out of the room. I once again found myself being paralyzed in my own fear. The attacking did not end there. However, this is where my memory fades. There are moments when I remember being conscious and then falling unconscious. In that moment of fear, I truly thought that if I ran out that door that I probably wouldn’t be here today. My body became completely limp and I just allowed whatever was going to happen to me. The next morning, he drove me home and acted like nothing had happened. He asked for a kiss and I got out and slammed his car door as I ran to my front door.
During my morning class the events of the night began to run through my mind. My eyes were welling up with tears and I got up out of my chair and walked out of the class. When I arrived home and I felt completely lost and unsure what to do. I knew I had to tell somebody. I was terrified to tell my mother what had happened to me. I feared how she was going to react and if I told her that I was sexually assaulted then I would have to accept that I am now a victim to what was a violent night. So, I reached out to my Aunt she responded and reassured me that “everything is going to be okay’ but that she was going to inform my mother because she needs to know. Within an hour my mother was standing on the front porch.
In that moment I realized, I was now a victim. My mom listened to my story and she asked to look at my body. There were bruises and bite marks all over me. I could tell by the look on her face that ‘it was bad.’ We got in contact with my therapist that I was seeing at the time and she advised us to go to the sexual assault centre at one of the hospitals. I remember sitting in the emergency room scared while my mind replaying what took place the evening before. I was questioning was I even sexually assaulted? Was this just a terrible nightmare that I had? Trying to act like I was okay when it most certainly was not. The nurse took me into a room and explained to me that my body was worn down from everything that had happened. I was like I just ran the Boston Marathon.
She had me undress and then proceeded to scan my body with a blue LED light while marking all my injuries on body diagram. All I could remember was the number of circles she had drawn and how it seemed to go on forever. When she got to my neck region she was shocked to see two finger marks on my throat and broken blood vessels. The nurse turned off the light and looked at me saying “with the amount of damage done to your throat and neck region, you shouldn’t be able to talk right now.
I felt like my soul was ripped from my body, I was on “Airplane Mode.” I fell into a deep depression after the attack, but this wasn’t the only thing that changed. I was unable to trust males except for those very close to me, but even then, I was still hesitant to hug or be touched by a male. My grades started declining rapidly because I was enrolled in journalism broadcasting and some of the topics in class referenced sexual assault, murders and rape. It was a constant reminder of my own event which made me not want to attend classes anymore. Also teachers and professors who would approach me after classes and ask if I was okay. Even though I appreciated the concern, I just wanted to act like the event never happened and that no one treated me differently. It made me feel as if there was something wrong with me when all I wanted to do was not be reminded of the attack and for everything to go back to the way it was before the event, but I knew that was never going to be the case. At home I started living off of antidepressants and alcohol.
I would be fine for a bit, but then I would come back to reality of everything that had happened which caused multiple failed suicide attempts and then caused me to turn to blaming others for my attack. I blamed my ex thinking that if he hadn’t broken up with me, I would never of ended up going to my attackers house that night. I blamed my mom for letting me go off to school when she knew I was not in a good state after the break up and if she had made me stay home I would of never have gone either. Then another stage took over, loss of self respect and self esteem. I had constant thoughts of how would anyone ever love me again? Who would ever want to be with someone who had been attacked that way? Why would someone give me a chance when I am so broken inside? These were constant thoughts running through my head causing me to lose my self worth. I turned from fearing being worthless to constantly seeking attention in inappropriate ways. Overtime the pressure of everything finally got to me causing me to drop out of college. I was in constant fear that I was going to run into my attacker.
I started to date men who mistreated me because I felt like I deserved it and that overtime I became used to the feeling of being mistreated. At the time I was seeing various therapist and through sessions I found out that the college I was attending was one of the first to ever get a sexual assault counselor. The school couldn’t keep up to the demand due to lack of knowledge with their counselling staff and the lack of resources available. Thankfully, counselors were brought into my college because of the amount of cases that had been brought to the attention of the school, which was a break for me that someone could finally help me with my situation and knowing I was not alone. With being in journalism I felt like I needed to voice my story and educate others on my experience, so I started researching. I learned that 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime . That out of 100 sexually incidents of sexual assault, that only 6 are reported to the police. That over 80 percent of sex crime victims are women. Before my attack anytime I heard negative news when it came to sexual assault I would walk out of the room because I couldn’t believe something so horrible could happen to anyone.
When I started sharing my story to people I learned very quickly that our society struggles with the conversation about rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. People right away started attacking the victim and their choices so they can justify the perpetrator. People thought because I didn’t go to the police that I made the whole night up and since I kept on sharing my story on social media that I was craving attention. I can remember having a conversation with a co-worker. I just poured my heart out to her and all she could respond back was “Well, were you drunk?” I responded back, that no I was not drunk, but he was. She looked back at me and didn’t know how to respond. I was told to go to the police to tell my story to them but I was torn with the dilemma of telling the police and unravelling my past, or keeping everything to myself and possibly letting another woman become victim to this guys actions. Ten months after my attack it was brought to my attention one night at a party that a fellow peer of mine was also sexually attacked by the same guy, but she also brought up that one of our mutual friends was attacked years prior of my assault. I was in complete shock, but apart from that, I had a feeling of relief that I finally had someone could relate to my situation and that I was not crazy and that I didn’t make this night up.
It’s been two years and sometimes the feelings are still as raw as when it first happened. I have regret that I did not pursue charging the person who victimized me. I am glad that there are individuals who have the courage to speak out and take action. I hope I can heal enough so that I can be at that point too. What I can tell you is that there are good days and bad days and speaking out really does help.
Just remember you’re stronger than you think you are and you are not alone.
Ask for help and Never give up!
Please note: Always use your own discretion. Any advice you find on Umatter is our opinion. It may or may not work for you. We are not responsible for the choices you make or the result of your choices.
Some facts were used from www.sexassault.ca