Overcoming the Pain of Sexual Assault One Painting at a Time

Hayden Rivard says a fellow student raped her in a fraternity house last February. Rivard had a full exam, a rape kit, and went through all of the proper reporting channels only to be told she did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute. Instead of letting the sexual assault define her, Hayden took that pain and put it into paint.

She says she has always been artistic, but shortly after her assault she began to paint. Within the series of paintings was the story of her assault and the feelings that came after it. These paintings inspired iamher.media. Hayden’s initials being H.E.R., she says felt like this was a way for her to represent herself and other women who are survivors of sexual assault.

“That was me just taking all my frustration out on everything, there are a lot of subtle things that if I told a person about the painting they would understand it’s linked to the assault,” she said.

By September, Hayden started selling prints and phone cases of the paintings with 50% of the proceeds going towards RAINN, the National Sexual Assault Hotline. She says wants to be the voice for herself and other victims of sexual assault if she can.

Hayden talks about what inspired her to create iamher.media.

Hayden reported her sexual assault right away, but for many that’s not the case. She says she learned from her mother early on in life that “you are your only advocate.” 

Kate Bangert is the Co-President of Shatter the Silence, a sexual assault advocacy group. She says that the reporting process is oftentimes just as traumatic as the actual event because victims are required to repeat their stories over and over and often still don’t get justice. Hayden says that this holds true for herself as a survivor as well. 

“Being assaulted should be enough of a punishment, but somehow bringing it up brings worse backlash to a person,” Kate said.

According to RAINN, only 13 out of 100 rape reports are sent to the prosecutor and only 7 will be prosecuted as a felony. Kate says oftentimes survivors are told they don’t have sufficient evidence or their rape kits are lost.

Hayden says she feels like she hasn’t gotten any justice yet even after giving her story and evidence multiple times. She says the satisfaction comes from speaking with other women who have similar stories to her own.

In October, Hayden spoke up in a TikTok in response to a story about a Purdue student who was sexually assaulted and then expelled from the University.

She says in the video that people don’t report their sexual assaults because they don’t get any support, even from other women, particularly women in power roles.

“The TikTok that I made was really just me being furious with everything,” Hayden said about her response.

Hayden explains what it has been like since she decided to report her sexual assault.

At the height of the MeToo movement and media coverage about sexual assault and domestic abuse situations, Kate still says she doesn’t think she will ever see a world where sexual assault victims can find peace or justice.

“Sex is still a very taboo thing to talk about, especially when things don’t go quite the way you expect,” Kate said, “But there is this notion that is still in society that girls do some things that maybe make them deserving of being assaulted, which is a crazy concept but its still underlying in a lot of the ways that society functions today.”