As a freshman I never considered sexual assault to be a serious issue. I would see numbers everywhere claiming a certain percentage of the population was being affected by it. What did I care? I didn’t know anyone who had been raped. I was never going to rape anyone, so why should I worry about it? Why should I deal with it? These were the reasons that I gave myself. These are the reasons that everyone gives themselves.
Until last year I had never known a person who had been assaulted. When a person for whom I cared revealed the truth of her rape, it hit me like a freight train. My experience watching and supporting her while she suffered was a terrifying awakening. Her flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and reluctance to trust were magnified by the fact that she was practically alone. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story. This is, in fact, the reality for many women.
Why should YOU worry about it? My answers to that question before last year weren’t answers at all. They were excuses, merely an attempt to ignore the problem. Telling yourself that it is not your problem is a delusion. You do know people that are victims of sexual assault. They just may not have revealed themselves to you. Most victims of sexual assault tell no one. They spend most of their lives suffering in silence, alone.
Many ask why they are so silent. If it’s such a problem, why aren’t victims coming forward? The answer lies in the fact that everyone else is also silent. When survivors do choose to come forward, they are not met with belief. They are questioned. They are accused of not taking responsibility for their safety. “Why did you get so drunk? Didn’t you know he was a sleaze? Why did you dress so scantily?” According to the Federal Crime Bureau, the false report rate for rape is less than 2 percent, and yet when we hear accusations of rape we automatically question their validity.
Statistically, one in six women at Duke University will become victim of sexual assault by the time she graduates. Guys, can you think of six women that you care about? Is this still not an issue that affects you or your loved ones? What if that one out of six were your best friend? Your girlfriend? Your sister? What if it’s too late? Ask yourself, if one of your loved ones were to become a victim of sexual assault, would she tell you? The unfortunate truth is that she most likely would not.
One day I will be a father. I will have a child, maybe a daughter. Will this be the kind of world I bring her into? What will her college experience be like? Will she be the unlucky one out of six? I ask these questions because I cannot ignore the answer that I fear most.
Unfortunately, students here have become so inundated with statistics about sexual assault that, at times, they lack the shock value that they should have. But, I know people who were victims of sexual assault, and I have witnessed the effects first hand. Believe me when I tell you that all the statistics and charts in the world can’t even begin to describe how truly frightening sexual assault is. Sexual violence changed my life. But I was merely an observer. I can’t imagine the struggle that sexual assault survivors go through.
Something needs to be done. Sexual assault cannot be allowed to continue. PERIOD. To all the men reading this, I implore you: DO NOT allow the perpetrators of sexual assault to go unpunished. Merely saying, “Well I’m not a rapist” is not enough. If you know someone who has sexually assaulted another person, do not sit idly by. Remaining silent is just as bad as committing the crime yourself. If they are capable of such atrocious and acts, then they are not worthy of being associated with you. SET THE EXAMPLE. Support survivors of sexual assault—come to Take Back the Night tonight. Go beyond the numbers and learn the truth about what happens on our campus. Stand up and do something. It’s the only way our mothers, sisters and girlfriends will be able to live in a world without fear.
Tom Buchanan is a Trinity sophomore and a SHARP peer educator.
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