By Marcella Labellarte || Contributing Writer
This Monday, The College Reporter released an anonymous letter written by an F&M student who had been sexually assaulted. The writer eloquently and bravely recalled the details of the immense problems with how the school handled her/his/their assault. As I read it, my heart broke, as it does every time I hear a story like this one. F&M is not immune to this crime, and it is certainly not immune to mishandling sexual misconduct allegations.
I have been involved with various feminist organizations on campus, but I have dedicated most of my efforts to sexual violence advocacy. Over time, I have heard truly horrific stories about sexual violence on this campus and terrifying stories about rapists and abusers escaping punishment.
Last night, November 8, 2016, the United States of America elected Donald Trump to lead the country as President of the United States. This morning when I woke up to the definitive reality of the situation, my heart broke once again. Mr. Trump’s presidency will not affect me as a privileged, straight, educated, white person. But as a woman, and a person with friends who have been raped, molested, assaulted, and abused, I am terrified. Donald Trump, aside of his many other flaws, most recently came under fire for his degrading and misogynist comments about women. “Grab her by the p****,” he said. What a concept. Several women have since come forward with allegations of sexual violence that Trump perpetrated against them. People across the U.S. reacted with shock, but many reacted by accusing Hillary Clinton of covering up her husband’s alleged rapes and other instances of sexual violence. It is fascinating how sexual violence has been one of the most salient realities of this election, and yet somehow, seemingly one of the smallest factors in people’s decisions.
I am not here to make anyone feel guilty for who they did or didn’t vote for. What I am here to do is remind this campus that there are humans on the other side of your “politics.” There are people on this campus who have been raped, assaulted, and abused. They are in your classes, on your teams, in your Greek life organizations. And there are people on this campus who have perpetrated those crimes. More than ever, it is important to stand with survivors, to show them that they matter.
The anonymous writer said: “Never in my life have I felt less human, boiled down to a simple statistic.” F&M, can you imagine what it is like to “be” a statistic? Can you imagine what it is like to even need statistics to justify a criminal act that someone perpetrated against you? Why do I need to explain that 20% of women and 6.25% of men will be raped in College? Why am I constantly told “rape doesn’t happen here”? I am here to tell you F&M: it happens here. It happens everywhere. It is time for us to step in and say something, because silence is no longer an option.
Senior Marcella Labellarte is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.