Last weekend, a member of the UP community reported a sexual assault. This is the second incident in a few weeks - that we know of. This is unacceptable. We as a community, and we as a society, need to address the the fact that rape culture is real, and present, in our lives.
Paul Myers, director of the University’s health center, wrote an inspiring and emotional piece on this subject for the current issue of Portland Magazine. Even though the piece is lengthy, too long for The Beacon to print, I strongly encourage everyone to take time to read it in its entirety on our website.
Myers wrote about his experiences as a psychologist as well as what contributes to this culture we live in. He talks about how we can’t comprehend, as a society, what leads people to do this horrific act:
“Rape is murder of humanity; rape is power and control; rape refuses to admit that a girl, a woman, a boy, or another man is a human being, an aspect of God, breathed into life by that which we call God. Rape is dehumanization,” Myers wrote.
Lives are changed when someone else decides they have a right to violate another person. As Myers explains, sometimes they have to leave college, can’t react in a normal way to their husband surprising them, or date someone for the first time when they are sixty years old.
Myers’ piece was, unknowingly, incredibly timely. This recent reported sexual assault happened last weekend, just days after Myers' piece was shared by many in the UP community. It’s been rumored that this alleged sexual assault had to do with the House Crawl, or numerous other parties that took place that night. It shouldn’t matter. Even if the victim was intoxicated, or the assailants were intoxicated, there is never an excuse for sexual assault.
As Myers emphasizes, we live in a culture that can’t acknowledge the truth about sexual assault. And we as UP community members are no exception. There’s this feeling on campus that sexual assault doesn’t happen here. It does. It shouldn’t. But it does.
Why can’t we create a culture that is ashamed that one in six college girls, and one in ten boys face rape? These statistics don’t drastically decrease on a small campus like UP. But it doesn’t matter if it’s one in six, one in 10, or one in 20. One is one too many. As cliched as that sounds, no one, male or female, should feel unsafe going out and having fun a block or two from campus.
But that’s the great thing about culture. It’s always changing. 600 years ago people were dying of the Black Death, and everyone thought the world was ending. 100 years ago, women couldn’t even vote in the freest country in the world. 50 years ago there was segregation for everything, even something as simple as a water fountain.
Culture changes. Our culture that “overtly depicts and celebrates the act of forcing sexual will upon another person” and “adores power and domination,” as Myers says in his piece, can change. I hope it doesn’t take 50 years, or even 10 years for people to feel like they are personally responsible for stopping themselves from forcing themselves onto another person. I hope it doesn’t take that long for women to stop being blamed for “asking for it.”
I hope that if I have a daughter or a son one day, I won’t have to send them to college worried that later that year I have to come back and pick them up from school because they can’t even stand to be on the same campus as someone who sexually assaulted them.
I hope that my parents won’t have to do that to me. I love UP and I don’t want to let anything, or anyone, scare me so much that I can’t enjoy the cherry blossoms or sunny baseball games.
Sexual assault is something that everyone should talk about, and help prevent, not just in the moment, but preemptively. And as Myers says, “Help me. Please, help me. Let us join together and increase our ability to see; and let us pray for courage to act.”
But how do we change culture?
We can take a small step in our UP community by attending the Green Dot candlelight vigil on April 8 at 8 p.m. at the Bell Tower. We can join together to denounce violence and support survivors. At the vigil, President Fr. Poorman will speak about UP’s commitment to foster a community free from violence.
By shining a light on the darkness of sexual assault, we can help spark a conversation and try to change the rape culture that we live in.
Katie Dunn in the editor-in-chief of The Beacon and can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @katie_dunn24.