Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

After recent events leading up to the Miss WCU Pageant, I have decided to voice my story to the campus. Not for my self glorification, but for others who may feel silenced by other acts of censorship that occur on campus, and for those who may have been in a similar situation to mine. I’m sure many of you are aware that during the Miss WCU pageant there is a talent portion of the pageant. One week before the pageant the contestants show their talent to those running the show, to get advice on how they can improve in order to get more points. After practicing my talent, which is a spoken word poem on my rape, I was told that I should consider changing my verbiage. I asked why, with curiosity; the response I was given was because the pageant is a family event and there might be children there, it’s just not a good idea. I asked other contestants what they thought and one woman told me that those running the pageant told her that her dance must remain PG-13. This baffled me even more. So, if I were to dance, I could dance PG13, but because I’m speaking I must keep it rated PG.

I understand why some parents may not want their children hearing the word rape, but if children are not exposed to the word, then how will they learn what rape means? When I was raped I was 15, and I did not know what was going on at that age. If parents are afraid to talk to their children about rape, what are they going to do when their 21 year old tells them they were raped at age 15? Luckily my parents were supportive, and I assured them I’ve gotten what I needed to get through it, but what if I hadn’t? What if at age 6 I heard a poem about rape and then at age 15 I knew what was going on? I really think by censoring me those running the pageant did not realize the harm they might cause by not allowing me to say rape.

In the end, I did change the word “rape” in my poem to the word “violated” I chose to do so after discussions with educators on campus, close friends and advisors, and a heart-wrenching, soul-searching examination of my priorities. I chose to change the word because I was informed if I did use the word rape in my poem, it could cost me the competition. In my mind, saying one word and risk losing a year’s worth of programming and money to help support organizations that help stop violence against women was simply not worth it. I gave in to the censorship because I believe in the cause I’m constantly fighting for on a daily basis. Violence against women is a real issue, an issue that affects everyone, whether they realize it or not.

I would not say I am pleased with my decision, but I am proud that those in the audience left knowing exactly what my platform was, unlike other contestants. In some respects, since I did not win, I wish I would have said the word rape to really leave a mark on those in the audience. Even though rape is a form of violation, I feel as though rape is a stronger, more powerful word. I hope that in sharing my talent with those I brought awareness to, someone you love who has been victimized, could be a survivor of rape.

To end my editorial I’d like to share with you my talent for those who were not there and for those who were, I’d like you to read the real thing.

Rebekah Suzanne Balmer, age 15

Christina, age 19

In March 2004

after she closed my bedroom door

and I heard her feet walk across my floor

it was then, that I knew

I would never be the same again

for my home became a place

full of blood and tears

a place full of fears.

I forced my mind to slip away

as she raped me day after day.

she took my youth,

she took my soul

I no longer had any control

my emotions became stone

and I felt so alone

March, April, May

I prayed for a new day

June, July

I thought I would die.

when I said NO

she heard GO

I forced my mind to slip away

as she raped me day after day

she took my youth,

she took my soul,

I no longer had any control.

and my home became a place

full of blood and tears

a place full of fears and

I kept my secret for so many years

and inside I felt shame

because society tells me

I’m the one to blame.

but if I was your daughter

your sister

your friend,

wouldn’t you want violence against me to end?

so take a stand with me

here and now,

make a promise

make a vow

to your mother

your daughter

your sister

your friend

for violence against women

must come to an END.

Rebekah Balmer is a student at West Chester University majoring in Women’s Studies. She can be reached at RB649636@wcupa.edu.

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