I am a survivor of sexual assault. And that was the hardest sentence I’ve ever written.
Twenty-five percent of CSU women have survived sexual assault (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner 2000; Warshaw, 1994). Almost no women will ever talk about being sexually assaulted; in fact a study recently published by the Journal of American College Health indicates that less than 2 percent of women who are sexually assaulted report the incident to the police. Sexual assault is defined as any act of sex, ranging from unlawful sexual contact to actual intrusion or penetration, where the actor has not obtained consent from the other person. Ninety-seven percent of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows. So the real problem is not lurking in the bushes or back allies; instead, it is sitting under our noses. This is not what I would call a fun subject, but it needs to be addressed, so I’m going to take a stand. Sexual assault is a problem now. Sexual assault happens at CSU. And sexual assault needs to be stopped.
Like most people, I don’t even know how to talk about sexual assault most of the time. Let’s face it: In a society that can’t even openly discuss healthy sexual relationships, discussing sexual assault is beyond taboo. I know sexual assault is wrong – so wrong – yet society seems to treat it like it is something that just happens, or even something that’s not wrong.
The worst part about sexual assault is that most of the time society blames the victim. Society will tell victims that they should have dressed differently, drank less, screamed or said no – but these things should not be factord. There is no logical reason to blame the victim because it is not the victim’s job to stop assault. The only person responsible for the crime is the person who committed it. It is impossible for people to heal and move on when society tells them that they made the mistake.
Personally, sexual assault has made me scared of relationships, scared of trusting people, guilty for my lack of action and scared of being vulnerable. Luckily for me, I have found people who will discuss sexual assault with me and support me in the healing process, but many people will never find this. CSU is lucky to have the counseling center and the Victim Assistance Team, but these resources are only a start to making change on campus.
I wish I knew why sexual assault exists and how it can be stopped. I want to tell future generations to take care of each other and to believe and support each other. I want my children to know that they don’t ever have to do anything they don’t want to when it comes to sexual actions. I want people to understand that just because someone is intoxicated it does not mean it is OK to take advantage of them. I want people who have committed an assault to get some sort of real and serious punishment. I want fathers and mothers to protect their children, and children to learn to stand up for themselves. I want men to respect women and women to respect men. I want people to understand that sex is not something that can be stolen and that people’s bodies cannot be mistreated.
More than anything, I want an end to sexual assault. And if I can’t end sexual assault I at least want to be able to talk about it.
Everyone can be a part of stopping sexual assault. The best thing that people can do is to talk openly about sexual assault. All people need to work toward changing the social norms that allow sexual assault to exist.
People need to understand how important it is to believe and support survivors of sexual assault. Women need to be empowered so that they don’t blame themselves. Society needs to stop blaming the victim and start having conversations about what a healthy sexual relationship looks like. Everyone needs to understand that consent is cooperation in act and attitude, and only a sober adult can give consent. Silence is not consent.
I want to encourage everyone to participate in Take Back the Night, an event going on at the Lory Student Center on April 19, starting at 6 p.m. This event is a great way to learn about sexual assault and to support its survivors.
Meghan Smiley is a sophomore speech communications major.