By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Not many people can talk about being a rape survivor with the courage of Kristen Ray.
In 2014, during summer school at a university in the southeast, Ray, 22, went to a small party with a group of friends.
“I didn’t want to stay, but my friends kept saying, ‘Kristen just stay,’ and I decided to,” she said. “The next thing I remember, it was the next morning and I woke up in my bed in my dorm.”
Now, back in Birmingham, Ray’s experience has prompted her to consider starting a nonprofit to assist and support students who are raped or assaulted in college.
“I want to be able to provide drug tests, STD testing, counseling, legal services, and even shelter for people who need it,” she said.
Ray, a McAdory High School graduate who is now taking classes at Lawson State Community College, also would like to develop small support groups because she feels that having a network and sharing experiences are part of the healing process.
Ray is not afraid to share her story.
She had no recollection of being drugged and raped. She didn’t even realize anything was wrong until a few weeks later, when she began sweating heavily during one of her summer school classes.
“I was in my Spanish class. I got up, made it to the hallway, and called my mom. She told me to have [a friend] take me to the hospital,” Ray said. “When we got there, I must have been really out of control because they took me to the back immediately. They gave me some medication, and the next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital bed.”
Ray was given several pregnancy tests, which revealed that she was pregnant. That’s how she found out that she had been drugged and raped a few weeks before.
Ray returned to Birmingham that summer—but she was a completely different person.
“I didn’t go to my room. I just stayed on the couch and watched TV,” she said. “When I would sleep, I would see myself on the bathroom floor, curled up by myself.”
After talking with a friend, Ray thought of what she would have wanted to happen to her afterward: “I thought, ‘This shouldn’t happen to people, and nothing happens afterward.’”
Ray feels that it would have been helpful if someone had been around at the time to tell her about her options and offer advice about what to do.
“I didn’t know that the next day when I woke up I wasn’t supposed to take a shower,” she said. “I didn’t know what my options were for the pregnancy” which ended in a miscarriage.
Ray said she loved her time at the university, but she would not want to go back.
“I just left school, and that was it,” she said. “At first, I wanted to go back because I was going to move past it. But I didn’t know who those guys were. I could have had a class with them and not have known it.”
Ray said she wanted more done about the assault—and that’s what sparked her idea about starting a nonprofit to help others heal.
“You’re not a victim because you survived it,” she said. “By talking to other people about it, you might be able to help someone who has gone through the same thing.”