It's just another Friday night party. The place is crowded, smoke and music fill the small spaces between the tightly packed bodies. It's dark and everyone is drinking, dancing, having a good time...but then you spot a man in the corner, cornering an obviously intoxicated girl. You watch as he tries to flirt with her, coax her to come home with him, go off with him. You watch him take her arm, watch as she drunkenly stumbles, obviously not wanting to go with him, but too gone to get away. You watch as he leads her out the door. You watch, and you say nothing.
As a young adult growing up a party-oriented society, these stories no longer come as a surprise, but they never cease to sicken me. As much as rape and rape culture is talked about, warned about, and beaten into our heads, very little thought or responsibility is ever given to the bystanders that could have prevented it.
This past summer at Governor's School, I was able to attend multiple rape culture seminars, and in it I came to understand that those who stay silent about witnessing sexual harassment or assault are just as much at fault as the assailant.
When saying nothing, in fear of being "problematic" or "out of line" or whatever other excuse there might be, it just plays into rape culture and the idea to "blame the victim." No matter what your stance is on rape culture, the actual act of rape itself is not a debate, and it only has one side. As the saying goes, being silent is neither agreement or disagreement, but in a scenario such as rape, every right minded person should be on the side of disagreement, and they should voice their concern.
Therefore, it is crucial to speak up. The fact of the matter is it's better to be safe than sorry. It's better to be wrong and intervene in false alarm situations than to stand back and allow the real situation play out before your very eyes and not do anything about it.
So, as the new school year begins, and high school and college parties come back into full swing, I urge you to be aware and be courageous. If you see something or hear something, do not assume it's okay. Speak up. Help. It can be a gesture as small as joining the situation in the form of friendly conversation, and trying to get that person away, to a full on confrontation. Whatever it is, just remember that it is always worse to stay silent.
If anyone ever experiences any form of sexual assault/harassment/etc, the National Sexual Assault hotline number is: 1-800-656-4673
They are available 24 hrs a day.