Last week, we were shocked to learn that someone felt the need to post signs in the college center downplaying sexual violence, displaying lines such as “don’t be that girl” with regards to rape.
Originally, we thought responding to such posters was giving them the attention they so desired, but after some serious thought, as well as reflecting on our history of sexual assault on campus, we concluded that ignoring what had happened was not going to prevent it in the future. We, as fellow students to victims, those known and those unknown, should feel as if it is our duty to help them. We should strive to make our campus feel like a home away from home — safe, not something they should fear every day.
According to RAINN, one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That’s roughly 18 million women. In college, one out of every four women reported a sexual assault, according to oneinfourusa.org. These numbers are alarming. Stress from abuse, and the lack of support can lead to depression and other mental health issues that could lead victims to flunk out of school or suffer other personal detriments.
As a community, we are calling on you to take this issue more seriously. Even just one case of sexual assault is still one too many. Putting up these posters, whether intentional or not, suppresses the voices of victims, and it convinces them of the brutal stereotype: “It’s my fault because (insert rationale here).”
These kinds of things are what prevent victims from speaking out against their attackers. These victims are your fellow students — your classmates, your friends, your brothers and sisters. Society is judgmental by design, and we should be working to free victims of judgment and provide them with a campus that is free of those causing them physical or emotional harm.
We as a campus have come a long way by creating programs like CWC, No More and the efforts by Greek life to combat the issue of sexual violence. We’ve recognized it is a serious problem, yet we still have people trivializing sexual assault. This incident was appalling to the both of us and those aware in the community.
With both of us being a part of the Greek community, a community whose efforts to combat sexual assault have been tireless, it was safe to say we were very disappointed to see these posters go up. If nothing else, it made us realize there is still more work to be done and more people to educate. However, it was incredibly moving to see the response from many of our peers who quickly tore down the signs and took to social media to express their outrage.
Passion is contagious, and it was empowering to see those around us get as fired up about this incident as we were, and justifiably so. Men and women can both be victims, and it was great to see how quickly they acted to ensure the posters were removed so they didn’t cause any unneeded strain. If victims want to come forth, then we need to come together as a community and continue to support them. Unless we educate, empower and enlighten, the problem will never be solved.
Rob Norrie and Tess Alexander
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