There is a new Facebook page that totally inspires me. This is from The New York Times:
“Support for a College Student Grows After a Rape Complaint Is Dismissed”
“William Smith Stands With Anna.” How cool is that? A bunch of alumni and current students did not like how their college was handling a rape report, case, and investigation, and they took positive action that made a difference.
In a world that often supports the accused and makes fun of the victims, I am pleasantly surprised by this show of support for a student at a college.
I never wanted to be one of those “crazy liberal cat ladies” who look for phallic symbols everywhere and take feminism to the extreme. And I often pride myself on being able to see several sides of an argument; however, the more I read about and study the college campus rape issue and the way the media reports on rape, the more I am becoming hyperaware of language.
Steven Smith of ESPN was taken off the air for one week because of his comment regarding domestic violence, asserting that women need to be careful not to provoke the men around them. This guy is a major sports TV personality. And it’s 2014, right?
Luckily someone else spoke up, and Mr. Smith had to make an apology on the air.
His kind of comment belongs with the “Well, she shouldn’t have dressed like that” comments.
I understand that some women do dress a bit “loudly” at times. And it has always bothered me when women dress a certain way in order to emphasize certain qualities, and then they complain about all the attention they are getting.
“If you can’t handle the heat, honey, then get out of the kitchen.”
But regardless of how a woman is dressed, it still does not give anyone the right to sexually harass or assault her. We are trying to teach our teenagers and young adults personal responsibility still, correct?
And saying, “Well, she was dressed like a slut, so he couldn’t help himself,” is a weak, disgusting attempt at a half-ass excuse. As if the poor guy just couldn’t control himself. Please.
I just got back from speaking at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. The freshmen were lovely: so excited, so full of life and possibility. I told my story, and then we talked about how to deal with stress, how to party safely, and how to not get assaulted.
I still get a bit nervous before I speak sometimes, and I always pray, “God, if I can save one student from getting assaulted or going into an addiction, then it was all worth it.”
And it’s good for me to remember how lucky I am to be alive. I put my life at risk many, many times because of my addictions and low self-esteem, so I also say to the Universe, “Use me. It’s not even about me; I am just the vessel.”
Please forgive me if that sounds preachy. I hate being preached at. I grew up in the Bible Belt in Texas, so I try to never come across that way. I just attempt to speak from my heart. And I have to admit that I am a pretty passionate person.
After I finished my lecture, I hung out with some of the freshman, and we talked about all sorts of things. Several of them said, “You need to be in the high schools.” (I keep hearing that, so I am working on it.)
And then one girl told me about how she was in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was 14, and a man put a gun to her head and told her she’d better do what he said or he’d shoot her.
The miracle is that she flicked the gun out of his hand, pushed him off her; and ran and got away. Wow. I wonder how often that sort of things happens.
The good news is that she didn’t let a violent, scary incident affect her very much. I guess that is my whole point to this blog post. I cannot control what the media says or how it reports on rape and domestic violence.
I cannot personally force every university and college in this country to do what I think is the right thing when it comes to sexual assault reports and investigations.
But what I can do is focus on the positive. And celebrate every win. And keep finding ways that I can make a difference.
And so I celebrate the alumni and students who created and signed a petition and created a Facebook page in order to support Anna at William Smith College.
This act reminds me of one of my most favorite quotations ever, from Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”