Sexual violence is something most of us would rather not think about. It’s a subject that has been deemed too taboo for casual conversation, and even when it is brought up, most would rather dance around the topic until they’re able to change the subject to something more light-hearted.
Last semester, I fell into the category of the blissfully unaware populace, until a member of my fraternity engaged in sexual violence through a verbal medium.
At the time of the incident, I had more than a difficult time comprehending how someone could commit verbal sexual assault.
Assault is physical, and we were all raised by the old “sticks and stones” adage, right? I felt that a majority of people around me probably agreed with that mindset, and it wasn’t until I began to become educated on the matter did I realize how wrong I was.
By way of members of Rebels Against Sexual Assault, professors and other students, I started to realize that we were dealing with an epidemic of sorts. In the weeks following the incident, I was given an overwhelming amount of education that caused a massive shift in my perspective.
I soon realized that even verbal abuse can cause serious long-term emotional damage and possibly do worse than that to those who had already experienced an assault.
The shift really began to set in once I started hearing the numbers.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in their time in college, and 90 percent of those assaults will go unreported. My first thoughts after hearing these statistics were of my younger sister, a senior in high school. I consider myself a protective older brother, admittedly overly so at times (sorry Sarah), and I realized how real this was for her.
My stomach churned at the thought of her entering an arena where she had a 20-25 percent chance of becoming a victim of sexual assault.
I started to realize that my ignorance of the statistics and unwillingness to talk about the harsh reality of an issue that exists not only on our campus but on campuses across the country meant that I was part of the problem.
Not talking about it does not mean that it will go away; in fact, not talking about it perpetuates a culture of violence and victim blaming. No one should have to worry about his or her own safety or the safety of loved ones the way we all should worry right now. Open, honest dialogue is a small, important step we can all take toward a safer college experience.