Most student victims do not report sexual assault because they feel it is a personal matter. But is it really a personal matter, or is it just the way others react that makes student victims feel that way?
If you ask me, it is how we, as a society, react. When your university fails to act on your behalf, do we all start toting our mattresses around campus like Emma in hope that the administration will realize the weight we are left to carry every day?
If you were assaulted and there were witnesses as you were carried unconscious through the hallway, would you be okay with the fact that no one is stepping in to stop it?
If the star quarterback assaulted you and the university overlooked his “minor indiscretion,” would you be okay?
If you were sexually assaulted and choked and the only response from your university was a one-year suspension for the offender, would that bring you the justice you were hoping for?
The answer to all of those questions is “NO.” There is not, and never will be, an excuse that justifies or explains the act of rape or sexual assault, just like there will never be an excuse for witnesses to stand by and do nothing.
As a society, we try to create the ideal “perfect victim” and we want to have a textbook definition for the way the appropriate rape victim is going to react, but that is not the case. The thought that every rape victim is going to respond the same way is misguided. Everyone reacts to trauma differently.
We all want to feel safe on campus. We want to trust people and have faith that others will do what is right. College is a new experience, a chance to go out on your own, be your own person, and make your own decisions. But all of those things come with responsibility.
It is our job as college students and members of society to hold others, our university, and ourselves accountable. We need to stand up for what is right and what is fair, to remember the courage that it takes for victims to come forward, and to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Rape and sexual assault are never okay and “no” always means “no.” The way someone dresses, looks, acts, or walks is not an open invitation to assault them. Universities should never put their reputations above the safety and dignity of their students.