Opinions

I am the One in Five

Mandatory residence hall meeting. I know, you just rolled your eyes. The October hall meetings focused on alcohol safety and sexual assault. I recently sat through my building’s meeting, and you know what—I was disappointed, yet not by what seemed like a Resident Director’s sincere conversation about responsible alcohol use and serious discussion of the prevalence of sexual assault.

Rather, I was disappointed by our response. The chatter was constant, the laughter was endless, and the message was clear—we do not take alcohol safety or sexual assault seriously. We are not willing to have this conversation—a conversation that I think desperately needs to be had. I felt my heart sink into my stomach as my RD talked about the current FBI definition of sexual assault.

Because a lot of people laughed. The question of sexual assault was raised, and EU students answered. That’s right—not the RDs, not the President’s office, not Security—the students answered. The question was raised, and we laughed. Now there are a lot of reasons that people laugh, and I don’t think people laughed for malicious ones. Maybe they laughed because the topic is uncomfortable, maybe because the room was boiling hot, maybe because laughing is a coping mechanism.

But I was sitting there as well, and I did not laugh. I did not laugh because, while at Eastern, I was a victim of sexual assault. This was my first public conversation on the topic since then, and I was fighting back tears while other students laughed. As the RD outlined practical things to know, do, and look for, I wished that I had listened my first year at Eastern. I wished that I had heard that 10% of college females say they have experienced unwanted sexual contact as a result of verbal pressure. I wish that I had understood that 8 out of 10 rape victims know the perpetrator. But I probably couldn’t hear because I was laughing too.

“Before you point around the room, mouthing ‘Was it you?’ when the RD mentions the number of people that have been sexually assaulted, please remember that the answer is far too often yes…It was me.”

I didn’t take sexual assault seriously before those very dark February weeks. I didn’t think it really happened, and I certainly didn’t think it happened at Eastern. I didn’t know what it was like to wake up from a nightmare screaming for the 10th night in a row. I didn’t take sexual assault or alcohol safety seriously when I started college.

But maybe you can. I write to you today so that maybe you can know. Next time you are sitting in one of those uncomfortable meetings, remember that one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while they are in college. They probably won’t say anything—I didn’t. So even if the only thing concerning you during the meeting is the unfinished paper sitting on your desk, remember the other people in the room.

Please, before you point around the room mouthing, “Was it you?” when the RD mentions the number of people that have been sexually assaulted, please remember that the answer is far too often yes. Students may shake their heads and laugh along, but let me speak up now. Yes—it was me.

I am the one in five women who has experienced sexual assault. But you wouldn’t know that when you see me. I am your roommate, your classmate, your sister, your girlfriend. I am the girl sitting next to you in the hall meeting. But I am the one in five.

The conversation about consent, manipulation, prevention, and safety is vitally important, and we all have something to bring to the table. I invite you to the conversation. Let’s show up with open hearts, sharp minds, and listening ears.

Sources: National Criminal Justice Reference Service, “Time,” Department of Justice

The writer of this article has expressed a preference to remain anonymous. Comments and responses should be directed to Abbie Storch (astorch@eastern.edu), who will communicate them to the writer.

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