By Lauren Ramirez (Zeta Xi, University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
Content warning: This post mentions sexual and verbal assault. If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.
I knew I wanted to join Alpha Chi Omega during my spring semester of freshman year, but failing a class meant that formal recruitment during the fall wouldn’t be likely. The class I failed my freshman year was psychology, where much of the class discussed trauma and its effects on the brain – something that shaped my personal story in a major way – so I stopped attending class. I didn’t have the necessary tools for processing the things that happened to me, and I didn’t want to analyze my thoughts, feelings and reactions in such a clinical way. No one knew it, but from the time I was 11 until I was 14, I was sexually and verbally assaulted by my mother’s fiancé while she was on night shift at her job. I was consistently told I would never amount to anything and that attempting a life beyond what he determined I could do was ludicrous. I spent my years in high school yearning for acceptance but still trying to persist past what happened to me.
Moving to UNC Greensboro and meeting women from Alpha Chi Omega as my friends before they were my sisters was transformative. These women boldly proclaimed that they were real and strong, and they spoke out about domestic and sexual assault in a way that made me feel as though blame could not and should not be placed squarely on my shoulders. After failing psychology that spring of my freshman year, I told my family the dark truth about what happened to me – because I found out the man long departed from our lives was remarried and with a stepdaughter, aged 12. Through literal trial and tribulation, I began to tell my story: to family, to friends, to Alpha Chi Omegas in a tearful conversation and, eventually, in a courtroom. It’s been a legal and spiritual testimony for me that has spurred conversation, and in some tragic instances, sharing my story has encouraged other young women to open up about what they’ve also endured.
My friends from Alpha Chi Omega never turned away from supporting me prior to sisterhood. They listened with empathy and compassion and truly gave me a sense that I would never endure another thing alone. The philanthropic focus of domestic violence awareness enabled me to see their passion for community and ending domestic violence in a genuine, authentic way. These women were boldly sharing their stories at various events, and in speaking with so many of them, my resolve to be part of it became that much greater.
I was extended a bid to Zeta Xi nearly two years after that tumultuous freshman spring and its ill-fated psychology class. Though I wish my journey in Alpha Chi began sooner, I know it’s only the beginning for me in this sisterhood. I continue to be involved in my phenomenal alumnae chapter, Pi Sigma Pi (Stars and Stripes Military), and in my initiate chapter as the philanthropy advisor (shout out to Tamara and Bianca!). I’m the obsessively proud mother of a little girl, a middle school teacher and the content director for an influencer. I’m here to remind our sisters that no one can dictate what your journey in life – or sisterhood – should look like for you.