Dear St. Mary's we need to talk…

Correction: This opinion was co-written by Chris Paige, not Chris Pine as originally published.

This article contains sensitive material regarding sexual violence which may be triggering for some.  If you are triggered by this article and you would like to talk with someone please call:

 

Sexual Assault/Wellness Advocate

Meghan K. Root, MA, MEd

(240) 895-4289

 

First Responders Network

(301) 904-2015

[Some content has been removed at the request of the authors.]

That realization really floored me.  St. Mary’s is my home.  St. Mary’s, our beautiful school by the side of the river, is where I have learned and grown so much; spent my days playing and my long nights up writing papers and studying for tests and playing some more.

St. Mary’s is where you all are, you are my community, you are my friends and my family.  St. Mary’s is where we walk the path, play Frisbee Golf, shake our tail feathers, hug trees, kayak, drink beer, leave dirty dishes, cram until 2AM, talk until 4AM, watch kids’ movies, dream of the future, fall in love, laugh our asses off, and repeat.  St. Mary’s is our own little utopia or I think our best hope at ever finding one.  So it deeply disturbed me a few weeks back when this taboo issue in our campus utopia reared its ugly head.

I started asking myself why that number didn’t make sense to me.  It doesn’t make sense because our society tells us that sexual violence occurs in a dark alley where there’s a scary man with a knife or a gun.  But sexual violence perpetrated by a stranger is only a minority of cases.

The majority of cases of sexual violence (2 in 3) occur between parties who are acquainted with one another.   We are so used to the stereotype that sexual violence is sadistic and brutal, but sexual violence doesn’t have to be physically forced.  Sexual violence includes sexual encounters when one partner says no or doesn’t give consent.

Now I am not trying to shake my finger at the men across campus and say, “Don’t commit sexual violence.” That’s foolish since I am confident that is no one’s intention.  Nor am I trying to address women and say, “don’t get victimized.” That is also foolish, no one is trying to do that either.

What I am saying is St. Mary’s is our home and a statistic like 1 in 8 of our fellow classmates, 1 in 8 of our friends is a victim of sexual violence, is not okay. What I am saying is this is a big problem and we need to talk.

We need to talk about how body language is not a foolproof indicator of what a person thinks or wants, particularly when alcohol is involved.  Nor is the way a person dresses.  We need to talk about respecting the emotional and bodily security of one another especially in intimate situations.  And you know, I think we need to talk about doing even better than respect, I think we need to talk about caring for one another.

That shouldn’t be too tall of an order.  I am not saying you need to tell them “I love you” or buy them flowers or even let them sleep over but care enough that they are not too drunk and they are comfortable with the situation.

We need to talk about consent.  We need to talk about the right to change your mind and that sex is never owed.  We need to talk about intervening to help others in bad situations.  We need to talk about supporting the survivors; it is never your fault, and it is in no way okay that someone did this to you.

Dear St. Mary’s, my home, my friends, my family, we need to talk.

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