I Was Raped While Studying Abroad — and Blamed for It. This Is #MyStory.

*Trigger warning: sexual violence*

Four years ago I was privileged to spend a semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy. What a beautiful, historically rich, and deliciously decadent city to be living in! However, my joyous adventure was cut short when three men vacationing from Barcelona raped me after we met a local bar. They weren’t brutally violent, but they ignored my attempts to stop their physical advances and each “took their turn” while I lay silently crying.

The next day I knew I needed help—I needed to go home. When I approached the only professor I had and described to him what had happened his response was, “That’s what happens to women when they go to bars.” I wasn’t allowed to go home and finished the semester abroad.

When I got back to the USA I reached out to my parents looking for help dealing with the emotional and physical consequences of the rape. My mother told me, “That just happens sometimes.” My father, with whom I have a shaky relationship at best, screamed and cried and later blamed our relationship problems on my rape, as if it were my fault and the reason for our continued disagreements. I only found solace and support from my young female friends who were compassionate about what had happened—never blaming me or telling me that’s simply the way the world worked.

Needless to say, my story is not unique to me. After seeking years of help from a counselor, I’ve started on a new path that has lead me to passionately pursue women’s rights and advocacy because if my professor and parents were right—rape is what normally happens to women—then I had to start indefatigably screaming that that ideology was incomprehensibly cruel and wrong!

Healing is hard and it’s an ongoing process, but after years of distance from the incident, I can finally, confidently say that being raped was not my fault. I can say finally say with confidence to all women who have been in a similar situation, it is not your fault. Rape is not what “happens” to women—at least it shouldn’t be and it doesn’t have to be if we change the world together.

Rape culture is the epidemic of trivializing, excusing, and even encouraging rape within society by blaming the victim and not persecuting perpetrators. Rape culture has sunk into every nook of my society and I, as do many rape survivors, feel it is now my duty to stand up and protect my sisters from a world that aims to dehumanize, criminalize, and shame them.

United, with the help of understanding and gentle men, we can change the world. Together we can make the world safe for women and girls. We must stop telling each other it’s the victim’s fault; we must demand higher accountability; we must demand protection in the laws of our nation; we must speak up and share our stories so that others realize they’re not alone and join the global conversation. As one unified voice against sexual assault we can move mountains—it’s our only option at this point.

IMG_0109-2About the author: Olivia Joy Kimble is a graduate from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) with a degree in History and Applied Mathematics, with a concentration in early modern women in Christianity. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Nurse Midwifery. Olivia enjoys kayaking and coaching soccer; she is also the author of WomensEqualWrites.com.

Categories: Violence

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14 replies

  1. Sounds terrible. Usually in these instances contacting the police immediately after the fact is a good idea, especially in a developed country like Italy. DNA testing shouldn’t be too hard and those three Johnny Boccacios could have been locked up in Mussolini’s hoosegaw, which would have been nice to see.

  2. Reblogged this on Dysfunctionjunkie and commented:
    A courageous survivor and true example of moving forward from traumatization!

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience and having the courage to speak out for you and many others .

  4. Im from uk and i am in the very middle of an horrendous time as my daughter was raped in italy a few month ago while studying there with her college. But its got 10 times worse as we have received court papers from italian courts accusing her of a false allegation and she could spend 4-12 year in an italian prison. We cant get any financial help either, so are struggling to get a lawyer which has to be italian. I am busy with european mps to sort this but we have a deadline of 15th november,

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, you are so brave in doing so. As a student at the moment studying abroad, my dad sent me a text one day about things to be aware of. Being a woman living in Paris, rape was one of them. It honestly is something that is in the back of my head as I head out to spend the night with my friends bar hopping and such. Women like you sharing their stories amaze me and I have so much respect. Thank you for raising a voice.

  6. Congratulations on your victory over your past. It is a very hard journey that I know personally. You are right that the culture around rape must be changed. It is unacceptable for anyone to think the way they have and still do blame the victim. All that does is provide them comfort in telling themselves it won’t happen to them or anyone they care for because they rant like us. Congratulations again from one survivor to another.
    Hugs, Prayers and Love to you,
    Only By The Grace Of God,
    David (Bill) Lester

  7. Im so sorry this happened to you. There are so many women out there that live behind an invisible barrier that keeps them silent. Wish all women could have the strength that you have to stand up for what is so viciously wrong. Thanks for sharing your story, I’m so proud of you for your courage. Someones own personal stories like yours can save so many women from feeling alone and forgotten after this happens to them. Most often it is stories like this that gives other women the strength and courage to finally reach out to someone for help. Keep writing!

  8. thanks for sharing! you are a brave, brave girl! blessings to you!

  9. It is sad how brainwashed we have become in this modern day? if rape can be seen as normal??? then murder can also be normal, like that is what happens when someone hates you? God have mercy

  10. I’m sorry this happened to you. Of course it wasn’t your fault! As a survivor myself, I found healing in activism as well. We can’t change what happened to us, but we can change the rape culture we are living in. We need good, strong young women like you to carry on the second wave of feminism’s agenda to end violence against women and girls. At age 65, you courage and spirit give me hope that the work I was a part of as a young woman continues in your generation.


  1. #MyStory | Womens Equal Writes

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