Watkins shines through: A story of sexual assault
Bright, self-loved, and caring. Chelsea Watkins brings the energy into any room in which she steps foot. Her energy does not go unnoticed. She’s constantly focused on the bright side of life. Who could have guessed this compassionate individual has struggled with depression and anxiety directly related to someone else’s choice?
According to the Department of Justice, “sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”
Right before second semester of sophomore year started at CU-Boulder, Watkins walked into her best friend’s neighbors’ home. She had met them before, was excited to be back on campus and say “hi” to old friends. After a night celebrating the start of Spring 2011, Watkins fell asleep on the neighbors’ couch. Her friend’s couch.
“The next thing I remember was slightly waking up to my hand stroking someone, something. I realized who it was and what it was I was being forced like a puppet to do. I recognized the person as James. He was 5’11 and about 350 pounds. I had no idea what to do. I feared for my wellbeing knowing that he could literally, physically crush me and harm me. So I froze, kept my eyes closed and wished it was a twisted nightmare. He was extremely large but managed to lift my limp body onto him,” Watkins recalls.
Once he finally got up, she immediately ran out the door to her friend’s house and tried to process what had just occurred. The next morning she told her friends she either actually experienced or had a horrific nightmare of this incident. They told her it was probably a nightmare and, “James was such a nice guy, he wouldn’t do that.”
Watkins decided almost immediately to tell her best friend, Colleen, that it was definitely not a dream. With Colleen’s and Colleen’s mother’s help, Watkins went to have a rape investigation completed. In order to press charges, Watkins had to call James and ask why he had made a choice to do such a thing.
“Coked out,” was his response.
“It took about a month to even be social again. It brought back my depression and triggered anxiety. I lost a ton of weight. I started to have an eating disorder. I showered three to four times a day but I couldn’t scrub enough. I could not really eat anything more than raw veggies. Nothing was clean enough,” Watkins remembers.
Watkins began to lean on the people who lifted her up, the people who brought her joy when it was difficult for her to smile. She remembers a day when she and her sorority sisters went to a yoga class and hit the mat hard. She decided right then and there that she would definitely be coming back for a second class. The best part during the event was the fact that she just could not stop laughing.
“There were people there who treated me like a normal human when I needed it. I cannot thank them enough, really,” Watkins says about her large support system.
“No person wants to break a bone; no person wants to be unhealthy; no person wants to experience pain. [Sexual assault] is not something you choose. It’s personally harmful, and harmful to the people who love you, extremely harmful,” Watkins comments.
“Every experience you have in life shapes you in some way. The best thing we can do with a negative experience is to teach ourselves to acknowledge the positives, whether that may take months or years. There is no right or wrong amount of coping time and it might be something you will never forget. Use your experiences to relate to others on a deeper level. Humans have more in common than we think,” Watkins affirms.
“Regardless of how strong your support system is, you will likely feel alone, as though no one is there for you. Honestly, that is why I am so glad I found yoga. What I think is incredible about yoga is that it gives you the chance to cultivate and develop your own support system. Only YOU are with yourself 100 percent of the time, so make sure to be a support for yourself,” Watkins exclaims!
Watkins didn’t stay at Boulder. She didn’t finish that spring semester. She applied to schools that spring and transferred to Mizzou for her junior year. Two and a half years after the incident, she had to miss another semester and go to outpatient therapy. She continues to live with depression.
Watkins talks about how life does not fix itself automatically after a certain amount of time because all experiences are different. The recovery for each negative experience is dependent upon the individual. It takes continual work and a commitment to yourself.
“Ultimately, life is life – full of ups and downs as well as normal moments. It is more than okay not to take the ‘normal’ path to accomplish your goals as long as you accomplish them! I set out to be a college graduate, which may have taken six years with nine semesters, but I did it,” Watkins says inspirationally!
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