When Haramaya University student and social worker Yasmine Shabana was raped by her attacker in a dormitory room in May 2016, she had been on a mission to help other survivors of sexual violence.
But after the assault, she was left to cope with the traumatic experience alone.
“I was just like, I’m not going to be able to survive, I can’t get up, I cannot even go to sleep,” Shabane told CBS News.
The university has since hired a sexual assault nurse to help the student get through this challenging time.
Shabani is now the national director for the National Sexual Assault Hotline, an initiative that is working to reduce the stigma associated with sexual assault.
“The National Sexual Abuse Hotline is a service that helps survivors of the sexual violence they experience by providing confidential support, education, advocacy, and resources to increase the knowledge of sexual assault and how to prevent it,” Shaban said.
Shaban is one of a growing number of advocates and public figures to speak out against sexual assault on campus, as the number of sexual assaults on college campuses is on the rise.
The national response has been more muted, and there have been many stories of young people coming forward to report assault, even in the face of institutional silence.
Yet the lack of public outcry has made the issue even more urgent for Shabanyan.
“There are so many students that are being assaulted and are not being listened to,” she said.
“A lot of the people that I know have been harassed, they’ve been discriminated against, they’re not getting help, they have not been able to access resources, and I just feel like we’ve failed to take a stand.”
The National Sexual Violence Hotline has trained over 500 staff and volunteers since its inception in 2010, and has helped nearly 30,000 survivors.
“It’s hard to believe we’re just now starting to do it,” said Shabannan.
Shabaans story, which is being published by National Public Radio, offers an example of how to overcome a traumatic event.
In the early stages of her assault, Shababane was on a night-long trip to a shopping mall in New York City when she and her friend were attacked.
“We were walking up the escalator to the mall, and the attacker was just walking up to us, he was like, ‘I’m here to get you,'” Shabanna said.
She remembers looking over at the attacker and realizing, “I’m going to get raped.”
The attacker then attacked her in a brutal manner, stabbing her multiple times.
“He took her purse, he took her phone and he took my keys and he left me on the floor,” Shabaane said.
The attack left her with a deep wound that required 24 stitches.
After her assailant left, she told her mother about what had happened and her family was contacted by the NYPD.
After learning that the NYPD was investigating the attack, the family was able to locate the attacker’s apartment and found him hiding in the closet, but she was unable to tell anyone.
“My mum was crying, and she was like ‘I don’t want you to get hurt again,'” she said, recalling her mother’s reaction.
The attacker was eventually arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault, but his case was dropped due to insufficient evidence.
“So I went back and we filed the complaint, and they didn’t prosecute the case, so we didn’t get justice,” Shabalani said.
It was only after she was able a rape kit was performed on her attacker that she was finally able to go back to her dorm room and tell her story.
“She told me how it all happened, and that night, she said to me, ‘You have to be stronger than me,'” Shabaan said.
In her story, Shabaana recounts how the assailant left her on the ground while he raped her.
“When I came to, I was in shock,” she recalled.
“And I remember saying to myself, I need to cry.
I need the strength to cry.”
The assault left her physically scarred, and after months of recovery, she came out to her family.
“Her story was really powerful,” Shabbane said, “because it really spoke to me about how I can be strong, and how I’m able to speak up.”
But Shabanan says the lack, and often the silence, around sexual assault is a huge barrier to survivors who have experienced sexual violence at a young age.
“For the most part, when you hear about sexual assault at a younger age, it’s usually something like, it happens to people, it didn’t happen to you,” she explained.
“But for me, the truth is, my experiences with sexual violence are much more frequent and much more severe than my peers’ experiences.”
Shaban, a graduate student, now works at a non-profit organization that