by Alice Wilder
“Sorry I almost failed your midterm,” I told my Spanish professor in his office a week or two ago. “I’ve just been surrounded by a lot of sexual violence lately.”
Can you imagine his face? I might as well have told him “sorry prof, but the night before your exam I was crying into the arms of my friends after a horrifying interaction with a fellow student who refused to publicly support survivors of relationship violence.” He was cool about it, but looked really surprised at my bluntness.
My friends and are too tired to tiptoe around the truth. The truth is, it can be incredibly difficult to be a college student who cares deeply about interpersonal violence.
My parents are currently imploring me to step back from activism and school – because, like many adults, they don’t fully understand what it’s like to be a woman at a large public university. See, school is my number one priority. I go to office hours and send papers to the writing center. I make flash cards and outlines. But it’s hard to focus on all these things when it seems like a week doesn’t go by when something doesn’t happen to victimize or vilify women on campus.
We reject candidates for Student Government office who speak out about sexual assault.
My friend is kicked out of a bar for asking them not to play “Blurred Lines.”
An anti-choice organization comes to campus and harasses women.
I can’t go to Walgreens at 3PM without being harassed by men on the street.
You get the picture. None of us seek to have personal experiences with these issues – but once they surface they’re difficult to ignore. And that’s why there cannot be equal access to education while the threat of rape hangs over students. Period. A healthy college campus cannot exist when men make jokes like “I put the ‘sensual’ in non-consensual.” A health college campus cannot exist when the community that houses it, and the community which thrives in it, refuses to acknowledge or support sexual assault survivors.
My parents say I need to step back – but even though I sometimes browse transfer applications for women’s colleges, I can’t imagine not living in North Carolina. And even though my college experience has, at times, made me deeply frustrated and upset, I truly do believe that it’s possible for us to #EndRapeNC. I believe that because my friend overheard that “sensual in non-consensual” joke and he called out the guy, telling him to “tell that joke to my friends who are survivors.” I believe that many men here want to be part of the solution. And I believe in the Orange County Rape Crisis Center because they are doing so much work with so little. Not every rape crisis center is so intentionally intersectional and holistic. I believe in Southern activists.
I believe that we will win.
It’s possible to eliminate sexual violence on college campuses, but to make that happen we need to stop pretending that misogyny is coincidental.
We need students to come forward and tell their stories.
We need to talk about this and push our leaders for concrete change.
We can #EndRapeNC. But first, we need to speak out.
Tweet today with #EndRapeNC to support anti-violence advocates in North Carolina and implore local leaders and communities to step up and end sexual assault.