**Trigger warning: As with any discussion of sexual assault, this material may be triggering for some people. I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this post that you should feel free to contact if this post has brought up anything for you… or for any reason.**
This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Here on Stanford campus, we have several events over the next couple weeks to draw attention to the issues of sexual violence (including Take Back the Night on April 25th and a Sexual Assault Awareness Panel at the WCC on April 30th; check out more information over at our website).
But I’m concerned. You see, right now in Congress, politicians are actually considering NOT renewing the Violence Against Women Act. To me, this is appalling, but not surprising. We don’t prioritize the safety of women in this society. And we need to. Because it matters. And you need to care. Not just this month, but all months. You need to care about it at Take Back the Night and at frat parties. It needs to be addressed sensitively in talks about policy and in casual chats around the dorm.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons why this issue matters. But here are 4 urgent, essential reasons that you should care:
You know a survivor. You may not know you know a survivor. They may not even label themselves a survivor**. But the statistics say that 1 in 4 college-aged women have had experiences that meet the legal definition of rape. And I’m betting you know more than 4 college-aged women. As a friend, family member, or intimate partner of a survivor, you need to care about sexual violence. You need to be educated on the diverse and important ways that you can be an ally to that survivor.
You may know a perpetrator. Not all males are perpetrators (and not all perpetrators are male*). But, the fact remains, that some males, and some males at Stanford, have been or will be perpetrators of sexual violence. We, as a community, need to ensure that these people do not get the misguided notion that this is acceptable behavior. We need to say, clearly, loudly, and often, that sexual violence of any kind will not be tolerated here or anywhere. While of course this is a core tenet of survivor support, it is also in the best interest of the perpetrator: until he is held accountable for his actions, he will not change them.
We all deserve better. Until rape does not occur at Stanford, the entire culture on this campus will be worse of because of it. Women will never truly be equal until they can feel safe from the threat of violence. Stanford, for at least 4 years, is meant to be our home. We all need to strive to make this a home in which all members can feel comfortable and safe. We need to ensure that everyone is safe in their dorm, at parties, walking across campus, and anywhere else that they choose to inhabit at any given time in any state.
Sex is great. I don’t know where this myth came from that anti-rape advocates are anti-sex. We’re not. Consensual sex is, in a word, sexy. But in order for sex to be as great as it can be, it needs to operate within a violence-free space. All parties involved need to feel free to express themselves openly and honestly. This means that coercion and pressure cannot be exerted by anyone involved… or by the culture. As long as we continue to live in a “rape culture,” sex will not be at its freest and open-est… and therefore, its sexiest.
Sexual assault is wrong and it’s a problem on this campus. We all need to step up and speak up so that survivors feel supported… and so that potential rapists understand that that behavior is not tolerated in our culture. It’s in all of our best interest… and it’s all of our responsibility.
*I might, at times throughout this post, refer to the victim of sexual violence as female and the perpetrator of that violence as male. This in no way is intended to diminish the experiences of men who have been victims of sexual violence by either male or female perpetrators OR of women who have been the victims of sexual violence by a female perpetrator. It is merely because the vast majority of these types of assaults are male violence against women.
**I tend to use the words victim and survivor interchangeably. Anyone who has been affected by this time of violence has the right to define themselves and their experience as they choose: using either one of these words, both, or neither.
Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA): (650)725-9129
YWCA Sexual Assault Center: (650)725-9955 [24-hour hotline]