In 1991, Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson announced he tested HIV-positive in a physical earlier that year. In every life, there are critical junctures that shape who individuals become. University alumna Jennifer Andrews uses the date of Johnson’s announcement to landmark her own critical juncture, of a different kind, which occurred while she was a student at the University.
Like many college freshmen, Andrews was not sure what her major was going to be. She knew she loved English, but she began college as an advertising student.
In her first English class, Andrews met two young men that she sat between every day in class. One of them, Andrews said, was very nice and polite, and she began to go on dates with him. A very chivalrous young man, Andrews said he would never “try anything.” The other man she sat next to, Alex,* was not so kind.
One day after class, Alex invited Andrews back to his dorm to watch T.V. and hang out. While walking through the halls and up to his room, Andrews said she felt safe and saw girls everywhere throughout the dorm, trusting that Alex was a nice guy.
“I went up to his dorm … it seemed like no big deal. I kept thinking like ‘Well, this guy is in my class. I trust him. I see him everyday,’” Andrews said.
While in Alex’s dorm, Andrews said he climbed on top of her and began making sexual advances without her consent. She remembers the heaviness of his body on top of her and how hard it was trying to push him off. And the way he stared at her.
“I remember the look in his eyes … I remember the wild look,” Andrews said. “I can still see it. I said, ‘I didn’t come up here for this.’”
From there, Andrews said the events get hazy. She threatened to kick him in the groin if he did not stop, and she attempted to leave his room, but Alex locked the door and blocked it. Andrews felt trapped and still does not remember how, or when, she got out of his room.
At some point, Andrews said she gave up.
“I remember sitting back on the bed, and kind of gave up. I just remember thinking ‘I’m not gonna get out of here. There’s so much sound,’” Andrews said. “Dorms just have thick walls … no one is going to hear me or no one is going to care.”
For the rest of the semester, Andrews said she continued to go to English class and see Alex every day. She doesn’t remember getting a good final grade in the course.
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Andrews said she did not contact police and did not tell her professors about what happened. She filed her experience away and never spoke out about the way this event affected her — until now.
“No one was going to believe me … I just felt like people were going to say, ‘Well, you went up to his dorm room. What did you think was going to happen?’”
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Andrews attended Cornerstone Academy, a Church of Christ school, where she graduated with 15 people in her class. She was the valedictorian of her class and described her high-school self as shy while still “under her parents thumb.” She said she attended the University because there seemed to be an expectation to do so when growing up in Baton Rouge. While she looked into attending the University of Miami, she said her mother thought it was too far and encouraged Andrews to stay in Baton Rouge.
When Andrews came to the University, she became more outgoing. She began to go out more, as she noticed many people did while at the University. She said she also began to feel more “empowered” after taking many classes at the University where she read literature written by feminist authors like Virginia Woolf.
But if Andrews had experienced Alex’s harassment at any other time in her life, she said she would have probably responded differently.
“Being the person I am now, I probably would have punched him and definitely gone to the professor because I had to go to class with him every day after that,” Andrews said.
In 1993, Andrews’ parents moved to Kentucky. Instead of moving with her family, Andrews stayed in Baton Rouge and began to expand her horizons after being freed from her parents’ watchful eyes. By going out to bars on Chimes Street and finding a core group of friends with whom she had a strong support system, Andrews saw herself evolve into a stronger woman.
Fast-forward to 2017, when it seemed like with every day came another news story about women’s’ experiences with sexual harassment and assault, Andrews said she felt “very empowered” to speak out about her own experience. She said reading about the accusations against Harvey Weinstein triggered the memories of what she went through at the University because Weinstein and Alex used a similar “method of operation.” Weinstein would often allegedly invite women, such as Uma Thurman and Kaitlin Doubleday, up to his hotel room and make unwanted sexual advances toward them.
Andrews said one of the common criticisms among those who have spoken out is why women waited so long to talk about their stories. She contemplated this thought.
“I started thinking ‘Why do we wait that long?’ and I think it’s just that you’re not strong enough sometimes to cope with it… We want everything to be okay. We want normalcy,” Andrews said. “I was embarrassed I didn’t do more. What if he did this to someone else?”
Today, Andrews lives in California and works in marketing and public relations for films. She recognizes the impact, whether overt or not, that her experience could have had on her young adult life.
“I believed that this guy I’d see every day was trustworthy because I saw him every day and in close quarters,” Andrews said. “Why would he risk his education to attack a woman in his dorm? Why do these men risk their careers? They gaslight and intimidate us into not speaking out.”
After speaking out about her story, Andrews said she feels as though a weight has been lifted.
“I already feel much lighter,” Andrews said. “This experience is sending me to a much-needed place of healing.”
*Editor’s Note: The Daily Reveille has changed the name of the alleged assailant to “Alex.”