More women are sharing their personal stories of being sexually assaulted at Augustana College. The students are speaking up after a recent report of sexual assault at an off-campus event on New Years Day.
The college hosted a forum Monday night for students to let them know about Augustana's sexual assault policy. A lot of students say the Administration is falling short and the system needs to change. Local 4 News spoke with two women who are now willing to talk about what happened to them, with the hope they can keep it from happening to other women.
Ana Warkocki never imagined she'd start her Freshman year of college this way.
Warkocki says because she's an athlete, she was on campus over the summer, and befriended a fellow athlete, who would later become her attacker. She says she had reached out to him before starting classes, saying she was nervous about meeting new people.
"He was like 'oh I can come up and like we can hang out more and talk and make you feel comfortable' and I was like oh okay this seems like a safe situation to me because I thought I knew him," said Warkocki.
She says after he came to her dorm room, they were scrolling through social media on her phone when her attacker found private photos that were intended for Warkocki's boyfriend. She says that led to him being aggressive, and ultimately assaulting her in her dorm room.
"As I said no a million times he didn't listen to that."
She says after word got out about what happened, her attacker and some of her peers accused her of lying and looking for attention, saying she questioned what happened, and felt like "that girl."
But now Warkocki is among thousands of women speaking up as part of the national movement to address the issue of sexual assault. However, she says she didn't feel like going to the Administration at Augustana would bring her the closure and healing she needed.
"I need my self respect back, I need my self worth back, I need just my power and strength back, and that's something I don't think my school could give me," said Warkocki. "With Administration there's always 'you're a case now.'"
For a former student named Sarah, who asked Local 4 News not to use her last name, she says her experience has permanently changed her life.
She says she was raped by three students in her dorm room back in 2015 after being given a date rape drug at a party. Sarah says she went to a fraternity party where she suddenly felt very sick, despite only a few drinks. She says she remembers three boys taking her back to her dorm room, thinking they were just making sure she got home safe. However, she says they forced their way into her room and raped her repeatedly.
"I kept saying stop, wait, hold on, no. I said tht repeatedly."
She went on to say "I closed my eyes and played along...I didn't know what else to do...how long it would last...or how to get out of the situation."
After reporting the incident to Augustana and the Rock Island Police Department, she says things only got worse. Sarah says she wished she was assigned female officers given the situation, that Administration had been more sensitive to the trauma she endured, and felt "defeated" in the end, eventually transferring after her first semester.
"It breaks my heart and I'm so incredibly frustrated that this is the system that colleges have in place to deal with this."
After a lengthy battle of reporting to authorities, court hearings, false accusations, and more, Sarah says she finally felt some justice when the three accused rapists were suspended for 4 years from Augustana College. However, she says after an appeal, Augustana's Provost changed the punishment to 2 years suspension.
"There's not a single facet of my life that was not affected by this."
Sarah says her attack led to dropping out of school to receive heavy counseling, joining AA, and strained relationships in her life. She says after moving back home, she eventually went back to school and now works in her home state.
Now both women are hoping to not just empower others, but call on authorities to make a change.
"I hope this actually leads to real change and especially...I was hoping with colleges and how they handle Title IX."
They're joining thousands of other women spreading the message that they're more than victims...they're survivors.
"I love my college and the people around it," said Warkocki. "That's why I won't let him take that from me. I don't want him to change what I envisioned for myself for years."
Augustana Students will gather Saturday night at 6:30p.m. near the library in the quad. They plan to start their candlelight march at 7pm from campus to the Quad City Botanical Center. A private event for survivors and speakers will follow on campus from 8pm-Midnight.
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