After an early morning walk to see the sun rise over the nearby marsh, I am feeling a bit profound. I’ve been mulling over last night’s panel discussion with Arkansas Tech U students. The campus instituted the Red Flag Campaign which aims to educate bystanders on recognizing the signs that someone is either in danger of being a victim of a sex-based crime or likely to perpetuate a sex-based crime. Basically, it’s a campaign to get people to open up their mouths and actually have the decency to step in when they see something they know is not right taking place. Sort of like when your drunk friend attempts to drive himself home and you tackle him and steal his keys. For some reason, it’s easier for people to do that than intervene in situations where a woman is likely to be assaulted. Go figure.
ATU has experienced three stranger sexual assaults in the past few months and the campus is up in arms, understandably so. But I did remind the audience that while those three assaults have people talking about ways to improve safety and serve as an impetus for people to change their behaviors (walking in well lit places, walking with a companion late at night, etc), date rape and dating sexual assault are taking place in far greater numbers.
We hit on a lot of topics in a short time, and I actually have some ideas I will send to the school on how to better communicate about the stranger sexual assaults (their current system is inadequate in making people aware) and the prevalence of date rape. Boy, do I have some ideas! I will gladly volunteer my time if I can help in any way.
Since I did the interview over Skype, and apparently, was projected on a huge screen in the arena, I could not really see the faces of the audience members. And what I really wanted to say to the students in the audience was this: “I know the scene. I know that as students at college, many of you experiment. And you do things you don’t want your parents to know about. You get drunk. You fool around. And when you are raped, the fear of those details coming out to your parents, friends or society in general is a driving force in you not reporting the crime. Think about that. Your fear overrides your love of yourself and the suffering you will endure for years after if you don’t take care of yourself, get help, advocate for yourself work to regain your sense of control and autonomy.” That is what I wanted to say. As someone who faced the fear of what people would think of me – and what they still think of me – I understand, very much, the concern. But it’s not a good enough reason to stay silent. Or to endure suffering. This life is your own and no one else’s.
That is what I wish I could have said. Anyhow, will let you know what I wind up sending to the school. All ideas are welcome too: firstname.lastname@example.org