She was alone. It was a cold, clear night and she walked the final stretch of sidewalk with a heightened awareness of the environment. She appraised her surroundings with ready attention. As she approached her own residence hall she was struck by an unfamiliar silhouette. The figure reached into his pocket.
“I thought he was pulling out a gun,” said the female victim, who wishes to remain anonymous.
But it was only a student standing outside the door. He withdrew his keys and entered the building.
The assault on Thursday, January 14 has left its victim skittish but reassured by the Knox community.
Uncommonly fair January weather brought the Repertory Theatre Term student out doors for a walk around the track. It was then that three men confronted her. Only their eyes were visible between hoods and bandanas. But it was not their appearance that seized her.
“I’d recognize the gun again if I saw it,” she said.
The attackers did not restrain her, but she did not run.
“There was just the gun. Believe me, that’s enough to keep you still.”
The victim was surprised by an overwhelming sense of calm she felt during the event.
“The mind does not even register ‘gun’,” she said. “I think that’s what keeps you safe.”
While she stood still, her mind began to sprint. Having been struck with the chrome gun once, it dawned on her that the object could inflict even more grievous injury.
The men demanded money, all the while holding the gun to her head. Recalling the sparse contents of her wallet, she offered them her iPod, the only thing of value she had on her person.
She did not know what the men would do when they realized she had no money.
“I felt hands in my pockets and […] I thought, ‘there’s a possibility that maybe they’re going to rape me,’”
The pistol struck her head a second time and she fell to the ground.
“I played dead,” she said.
The men ran away with her wallet, leaving her lying on the track with her iPod.
She was alone. She was not bleeding. She had not been shot.
“When they were gone, I ran and screamed, ‘I’ve been attacked.’”
She was discovered and escorted to the Gizmo by another student where the pair contacted Campus Safety.
Support has come from all directions, according to the victim. Not only has she received kind wishes from family and friends, but faculty and staff have applauded her bravery.
She returned to class the day after the assault.
“I can’t hide under my bed,” she said. “Though it’s nice to get under the covers and stay there for a while.”
One black eye is an unwelcome physical reminder of the happening.
“It hurts to look in the mirror and see something you really don’t want to see.”
The bruises will fade, but the emotional residue will cling indefinitely to the victim’s thought process.
“On some level, you take responsibility on yourself. Could I have done this differently? Did I have this coming? Is this some kind of punishment?”
She is not yet comfortable going off-campus even in daylight.
“I don’t know when it will leave or if it will leave,” she said of her fear. “I hope I get up my courage again.”