There is simply no room for argument when it comes to the fact that we are facing a global crisis regarding sexual assault. From the President of the United States expressing his pleasure in grabbing women by the genitals to once-beloved celebrities falling hard from their pedestals after partaking in various forms of sexual misconduct, the truth is impossible to ignore: we have a problem.
Thankfully, over the past year or so, movements such as Me Too and Time’s Up have made great strides in breaking down the walls of rape culture and cultivating awareness as well as understanding for those who have been sexually assaulted. These movements have also done wonders when it comes to destroying the stigma that often prevents survivors from speaking up about their experience.
I have noticed a major flaw in the system that makes it infinitely more difficult for a survivor to come forward.
What if they aren’t sure what actually happened?
When someone reports that they have been raped, they often subject themselves to questioning, examining and probing of their experience to make sure each and every detail is accounted for.
But what if they don’t have all of the details?
What if they can’t answer all of the questions, offer up any information for examination or respond to any of the probing, solely because they do not know?
Where do we go from there? How might this situation even occur?
As much as we’d like to pretend it’s not, party culture is a huge part of college campuses; and as much as we’d like to pretend it isn’t, usually some form of alcohol is being consumed at those parties. Since alcohol is a depressant, it often leads to cloudy or even lost memory, making it difficult for one to know all of the details about what happened when they were under the influence.
Please understand, I am in no way stating that alcohol is what causes rape. Rapists cause rape. They, and they alone, are the problem. However, it is the grotesque truth that this hazy moment of vulnerability is often when predators choose to strike.
Sadly, this leaves many survivors in the dark about their own assault, which ultimately, scares them from reporting it. Friends and bystanders may offer their limited details of what they know happened, but when the victim themselves cannot remember the experience on their own, they tend to feel as if they have no leg to stand on. Often, they feel that they’d be opening themselves up to ridicule and hatred for coming forward and trying to hold someone accountable who “may not have done anything wrong.”
This sort of thinking only adds to the detrimental culture that our society has created for survivors of sexual assault.
We shame, we manipulate and we belittle until we feel like the problem has dissolved. But enough is enough. For the mental, physical and emotional well being of survivors, we owe it to them to do better.
That is where the community needs to come into play.
This is our campus and our home, and we need to make sure everyone feels safe here; and if they don’t, then we need to be sure to legitimize that.
When someone believes they have been sexually mistreated, whether they can remember it clearly or not, our community needs to treat their concerns and needs with respect.
Trusting your gut is valid. Having bad feelings and concerns is valid. Your intuition is valid. It is your community’s job to remind you of the validity of your instincts and feelings.
Everyone, regardless of the circumstance, has the right to request help and come forward with their experience. There is no shame in knowing or not knowing exactly what happened. However, there is shame in perpetuating an environment that does not provide security and support to those who feel they have been violated and are afraid.
It is not a choice, it is our responsibility to stand in solidarity for all who feel vulnerable and scared. The sooner we put our minds to it, the sooner we can improve not only our campus, but the world we live in.
If you, or anyone you know, feels that they have been sexually assaulted, please reach out to any of the following numbers:
-West Chester University Campus Public Safety: (610)-436-3311
-Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-4673
-Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County: (610)-692-7273
-National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
Ali Kochik is a first-year student English Writings major. AR875447@wcupa.eduwe shww