Leilani is an Indigenous CHamoru* and Kānaka Maoli woman, an activist, a life-long writer, and a survivor of sexual violence. On her second day of college, she was sexually assaulted by her dorm neighbor. The sexual violence continued in the form of an abusive relationship over the course of the next year.
“He was my neighbor. I couldn’t get away from him. No one would listen to me when I told them what was happening. I was horrified.”
Though she was able to leave the abusive relationship, the perpetrator stalked her for the next two years.
She began her journey of speaking out by reporting the abuse to the school. At the time, she was working in the community safety department on campus, so the person she was supposed to report the abuse to was her boss.
“He ignored a lot of my questions about the reporting process and made me feel like I was hysterical and crazy.”
After a first investigation into the case, the Title IX process took another two years.
“I lost my entire time at college to these procedures.”
Even though she provided witnesses and photos for evidence, campus administration repeatedly told her that they did not believe her.
“After two years of being told that I made this all up, it became difficult to continue to believe in myself. I began to feel like maybe it was all my fault.”
She found it healing to surround herself with a community of other Indigenous women who supported her and helped her contextualize what she was feeling within the history of sexual violence toward Indigenous women. Leilani says that she would not have been able to get through what happened without connecting with her identity as an Indigenous woman.
“Indigenous women face rates of sexual violence well above the national average, and you don’t hear many people talking about the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic….This community of women understood my experience so deeply and personally. ”
Activism has been another crucial part of Leilani’s healing process. For the last several years, she has worked on drafting laws and collaborated with congressional representatives about how best to support campus sexual assault survivors and prevent these crimes from happening on campuses. Leilani wants to ensure that others don’t have to go through what she did.
“I felt powerless for so long, and by fighting for others, I reclaim my power.”
Leilani has also found a lot of healing in connecting with support specialists on RAINN’s hotline—especially when she knows she has an urgent need and nowhere else to turn.
Team RAINN💙As many students prepare to go back to college this fall—whether in person or online—let’s follow Leilani’s example and work to ensure that they can do so safely. RAINN has produced some tips on how students can return to campus safely. Please take a moment to share them with your networks on Instagram and Facebook today.DONATE TO SUPPORT SURVIVORS
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