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Sexual assault survivor finds strength in sharing experience

Sexual assault survivor finds strength in sharing experience
Sexual assault awareness conversations continue
Posted at 5:28 PM, May 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-02 01:28:09-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — While the month of April highlighted sexual assault awareness, one survivor says conversations surrounding consent should continue happening year round.

Hillary Grigel was sexually assaulted her freshman year of college, but it wasn’t until months later that she realized exactly what had happened.

“I didn’t recognize it as sexual assault because I knew him. It wasn't in a dark alley. He didn’t jump out from behind a bush,” she told KGUN9.

Instead, he was a co-worker and a classmate.

“He acted like everything was perfectly normal. He dropped me off at my dorm room and I just remember I couldn’t get in my dorm or in the shower fast enough,” she added.

Grigel says she was in shock and disbelief.

“I felt like there must have been some sort of miscommunication. I must have misled him or gave him the wrong impression, even though everything I did in that moment was very concrete: I do not want to do this,” Grigel told KGUN9.

Colleen Phelan, a Victim Advocate with the Pima County Attorney's Office says it all comes down to consent.

“If somebody is not actively consenting to what is happening to their body, they are not consenting to that act,” said Phelan.

“You need to have verbal consent. If someone is intoxicated, they cannot consent. Coercion is not consent. Bullying or pressuring someone or threatening someone to get you to comply with you is not consent,” added Grigel.

For the next several months Grigel tried to cope with what had happened.

“So I started meditating. I started cutting myself. I sunk into depression,” she told KGUN9.

That is, until she reached out to someone she trusted and shared what had happened.

“I finally realized this was rape. This was not consensual. This was not okay and that was the beginning of me letting people into my pain and in the context of community I was able to heal,” Grigel said.

Now she is helping others do the same, by sharing her experience as much as she could, both in person and through her blog.

“It’s just hillarygrigel.com and I share encouraging words about life and I have a whole thing about facts on sexual assault,” she said.

“Everyone’s affected by sexualviolence, regardless of gender. When we limit the ideas around sexual violence to, it only looks like a stranger who assaults you on a street corner, what we do is we negate all the other ways by which people are affect by sexual violence,” Phelan told KGUN9.

“My most important thing that I love to share with other survivors is that healing is possible and your not going to stay in this place of brokenness and devastation, and depression forever,” added Grigel.

Below are links for sexual assault survivor resources:

https://www.sacasa.org/resources/

https://www.assaultservicesknowledge.org/az/get-help-in-southern-arizona/pima-county

https://uapd.arizona.edu/content/victim-resources