Female empowerment is at the core of who I am. Since my freshman year here at Saint A’s, I have been volunteering on a crisis line advocating for victims of sexual assault over the phone and in person. After over two years, I may know how to handle more situations, but the work itself never gets easier. I am reminded time and again of the prevalence of sexual assault, both on and off the Hilltop. So when an article was released by the campus newspaper denouncing the existence of rape culture, I’d had enough. I needed something different.
For a while now, I have dreamed of something modeled after Middlebury’s website It Happens Here, where survivors of sexual assault share their stories. But I also have been reminded time and again of the importance of meeting my community where it’s at. There is a reason why sexual assault on this campus is so underreported, and it is clear that in many instances survivors are not willing or ready to come forward—and I don’t blame them.
But after reading this article denying rape culture, I needed something different, because I have witnessed rape culture firsthand. I need survivors to know that they matter and that we believe them. I need survivors to know that any unwanted kissing or touching is sexual assault, and they have every right to label it as such. I need survivors to know that there are people who will stand with them no matter what.
In many ways, I have been disheartened this year with the extreme back-and-forth that exists on this campus. It is time for a source that fosters truth and dignity and allows all voices to be heard—especially those that are systematically silenced.
Our school consistently preaches the Benedictine values of love, hospitality, and community. We fall short of honoring these values when individuals are left outside of this supposed circle of compassion. I write so that we may include everyone in the circle of compassion and truly exhibit Benedictine values. Cornel West once said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” I write because I intend to love people in public.