By BRIAN GRAVES
Blake Kitterman had just completed a very long time on the campaign trail stumping for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her historic run for the presidency.He had returned to his …
Blake Kitterman had just completed a very long time on the campaign trail stumping for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her historic run for the presidency.
He had returned to his residence at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, where he heard from many of the fellow campaigners he had met along the way.
There was one in particular that would change his life in a very negative way on Nov. 11, 2016.
"We met via Facebook during the campaign and he messaged me talking about how we had met," Kitterman said. "It was just a 'getting to know you' kind of thing. It sounded like one Clinton delegate and a campaign staffer talking."
"When you think back about all of the things I wish I had caught sooner, there are red flags. When you are in that moment, they do not appear to be that way," he said.
Kitterman said the person messaging him wanted him to visit Birmingham, Ala., where he was a student at UAB (and was housesitting) "to just hang out."
"He was preparing to go to Ohio to work for the campaign and I expressed I had seen problems with drugs and alcohol and I had refrained from that sort of thing," he said.
Kitterman turned down the offer because "I just wasn't going to drive hundreds of miles to stay with a stranger."
"He went to Ohio and we didn't talk for awhile, then he began texting me again wanting me to work in Ohio. It seemed like innocent acts here and there. Friends of mine in Kentucky and Virginia were doing the same thing."
He said the night of the election, after Clinton lost, the messenger sent him a "crude text explaining how he needed me in Ohio."
"I didn't see any way I was responsible for Clinton's loss there," Kitterman said.
The messenger asked if he could stay with Kitterman for a night as he was on his way to Birmingham and it was a long drive.
"I said OK, but I should have looked at a map. I would have found out Chattanooga is not the most direct route to Birmingham from Ohio," he said.
Kitterman said the messenger was at a campaign party the night before he arrived and was "drunk texting me." He said the texts were crude, seductive and intimidating.
"That was that. It was inappropriate, but he was intoxicated and people say things they shoudn't," he said. "That was another red flag I should have taken action on."
Kitterman said he arrived on Nov. 11 to spend the night and that was when Kitterman says he became one of the "#metoo" movement.
After an investigation by the University Of Alabama-Birmingham's Title IX Office concerning Kitterman's accusations, the messenger was found "responsible for non-consensual sexual contact, non-consensual sexual intercourse and sexual harassment."
Kitterman, in filing his complaint with UAB, found himself subjected to multiple interviews and the revealing of his text messages.
His testimony was found credible and the UAB student was barred from campus for multiple years.
However, the nightmare for Kitterman will likely go on for much, much longer.
"Traumatized would best describe my immediate reaction, almost like being in shock," he said. "You really don't know what happened. Your mind is in a different place than your body."
"I knew something wrong had happened. I had said, 'No.' I didn't ask for it. I knew it was not consensual."
Kitterman said within minutes he called the UTC police trying to get in touch with a counselor.
"When I came out as gay, it took awhile to accept that identity and accepting the identity as a survivor is really hard because it means accepting a lot of things," he said.
"I felt so disgusted. I remember taking a hot shower just to try to melt things down because every single place that was touched, I remembered. Then I just broke down and there was a part of me that said, 'You must have done something wrong.'"
Kitterman said he thought of being involved with the Chancellor's Student Advisory Board and being a delegate at the Democratic Convention, as well as other distinguished work.
"You think there's no way this could happen to me," he said. "It was a rough Nov. 12."
"When the first anniversary happened this year, it was like re-watching a movie — even though I was not in my dorm room at the time," Kitterman said. "I was at my grandparents' house. When it hit 8 p.m., I knew that was when he arrived. I knew the times everything had happened."
"There are no words to express how it feels," he said, adding he was on antidepression medications for a period of time, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, and got to a point where his classes began to hurt, because getting up for a new day became difficult.
"You begin to see shadows in the back of your car. I used to shower three and four times a day because I always felt dirty. I quit eating."
"The one thing victims need to hear is, 'I believe you,'" Kitterman said. "They are given every excuse from 'You were asking for it' to 'You're being overdramatic.'"
"Through the process of healing from counseling and forming healthy relationships with people, you can start to regain a new sense of being important as you live this new life as a survivor," Kitterman said.
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