To the women of F&M,
Let’s be honest: we can’t all be “besties,” but we do have a responsibility to ensure the safety of each woman on campus. But every weekend, we, the women of F&M, are not meeting this responsibility. One in four women will experience sexual assault by the time they graduate college. You may not like that girl or may not even know her, but her safety should be every F&M woman’s concern.
Like on most college campuses, the unknown man in the black trenchcoat crouching behind the bushes rarely perpetrates sexual assault. Rather it is our acquaintances, friends, or significant others who ignore our pleas and our wishes. It can happen in dorms, at a party, in local bars. However, as terrifying as this reality is, the women of F&M have powerful allies in protecting themselves: each other. We can make sure every woman comes home safe by simply intervening if we see something odd or potentially dangerous.
Now, it’s my turn to be honest. Although the statistic for sexual assault is one in four, we never act like sexual assault or rape happens here on our campus. Why? Is it because of the F&M bubble? Is it because talking about sexual assault is awkward, embarrassing, and frightening? Or, is it simply because we don’t know? I suspect it is a combination of the three, worsened by one observation. F&M women don’t seem to care enough about one another to abandon silence and speak up!
What does “something odd” look like? It can be a young woman sitting alone on a couch, too intoxicated to stay at the party. It can be a couple in the corner of a room who don’t seem to be all that “into each other.” It can even be the young woman at the bar who gets left behind. In each of these situations, the women of F&M have power beyond imagination. We can help this young woman get home safely by separating her from the situation with a simple “Come to the bathroom with me?” There are other phrases, but any such intervention can change the course of a night.
So what happens if this particular young woman is fine or you misread the situation? Nothing. Both you and she move on with your nights. However, the next morning, she might remember your intervention, your worry, and your concern for a stranger, and she might eventually do the same for another woman. It may be a cliché, but she can “pass it forward” and help ensure the safety of all women here.
I mentioned earlier that here, at F&M, silence is easier when the subject of sexual assault arises. Angie Epifano, a rape survivor from Amherst College writes that for victims and survivors of sexual assault, “silence has the rusty taste of shame.” Epifano believes it was her own personal shame regarding her assault that impeded her from talking.
At F&M, we do not need to feel ashamed. F&M’s women are passionate, intelligent, and articulate leaders. Others can’t shame us into silence. If someone tries to embarrass you for intervening in a situation that looks potentially dangerous, do not allow him or her to stop you from doing what is right for our community. It may be easier to stay silent and not draw attention to yourself, but why abandon a fellow woman if she needs your help? The “rusty taste of shame” has no place here on this campus.
This weekend, be aware of your surroundings and your fellow women. If you see or hear something that just doesn’t seem right, act. In one weekend, we can change women’s experience here at F&M. We can have a better, safer, more fun weekend.
Questions? Email Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.