how to help sexual assault victims

Dear Sexual Assault Victims At A&M, We Hear You

Even if my school won't support you, I will.

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I love my school. I honestly didn't even apply to any other college. I wanted to come to A&M; from a very young age. While I still support my school and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, I will say there is a very large issue at hand. I will not speak on any one case, as I do not know all of the details. This is a general article about my personal views on the sexual assault scandal going on.

For those of you that aren't aware of the issues, there have been a few sexual assault allegations at A&M.;

First of all, let me make it clear that men can be sexually assaulted too. So many times, we just focus on women being assaulted and ignore the male victims. They need to be heard too. "One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives."

While sexual assault cases are very hard to handle because there is so much hearsay, there are also plenty of cases with strong hard evidence. The punishment for these perpetrators is usually not justice for the victims. Multiple victims have claimed they felt betrayed by the school or that the school didn't do enough for them. While each case is different, the hearings need to be fair and consistent.

"Aggies do not lie, cheat, or steal nor tolerate those who do." We don't tolerate cheating on tests or stealing from the bookstore but you can steal someone's livelihood and sense of safety and still walk around campus. We are required to take sexual harassment training every school year but obviously, it's not doing anything. Too many people have come forth with their stories of how they feel the school did not properly handle their cases. We need to start holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

A student should not be able to sexually assault someone and have a little "time out" from school and return to experience everything we do. A student-athlete should not be able to redshirt themselves if they are suspended for sexual misconduct. If there is enough evidence for a panel to find a student guilty of rape, they should not be allowed to come back to this school. It is a privilege to attend A&M; that too many students obviously take for granted.

"I was drunk." "It was dark." "She was wearing slutty clothes." There is no excuse for sexual assault. You are not entitled to another person's body. Rape or any kind of sexual harassment is not accidental or a little mistake. You don't accidentally grope someone or accidentally rape them.

No means no. Stop means no. Pushing and fighting means no. "I don't want to" means no. "Leave me alone" means no.

Rape victims go through the unimaginable trauma that many never really recover from.

Why should a victim have to walk around campus and potentially see their perpetrator again?

And to those people that say "you can transfer", why should the VICTIM have to leave a place they probably love? Why should a victim be punished for being violated?

While I will say some mild cases of sexual harassment are sometimes blown out of proportion, who am I to make the victim feel dumb or insecure for feeling violated. Many people don't even realize they have been violated until the subject comes up. The worse thing that has happened to me since I became a young woman was an older 50+-year-old man (whom I didn't know) putting his arms around me at an event. While it made me very uncomfortable I just pushed him away and went on with the night. That is minor compared to what some people go through.

In a perfect world, no one would ever be violated. No one would ever have to feel unsafe walking alone. No one would ever feel unsafe going to a party. Young girls wouldn't have to be told to not wear certain clothes, or not go certain places because of how men would treat them. But that's not the world we live in. We need to feel safe on our campus. We need to feel like if something happens, our school would protect us and find justice for the crime. But many people don't feel that way anymore.

Too many people fear reporting their cases because they don't want to be "that person." Stop victim shaming. Especially if you have never been in that situation, you have no idea what it feels like for them. So many students have said they had to take time off from school because of the trauma they went through. We need to create a safe environment where they feel supported.

#MeTooTAMU has been created as a community for victims and supporters. It is not a movement to bash our school and tear it down. We want our school to be better. If this many students have come forward with stories of how the school wronged them, there is obviously an issue. I don't know the solution, but no one should ever have to go through what so many of these victims have. Be the good Aggies that victims thought you were before they were wronged. Be better so no one will have stories to tell.

To those students coming to A&M; in the fall who are now skeptical of their decision, I promise most Ags are good Ags. And to those of you who are here and have already been a victim, we will stand behind you. Being an Aggie is all about the community and comradery. While there are bad people, there are plenty of good people. I believe you. I care. I support you. And I'm sure so many other Ags do too.

It has been claimed that A&M; is just a business now. I want to believe in my school and the many traditions that made me fall in love with it. But I too see how it has become a business. The administration is not listening to the student's needs. Students should not have to ask to feel safe. Student's security should be the administration's number one priority, but is it?

But it's not just a school issue, this is a society issue. "They're just being guys" isn't an excuse. Stop brushing off offensive and crude behavior as a gender trait. Call your friends out on their bad behaviors. Help victims when you see they're in danger. Don't joke around about harassment. These things stop when we make them stop. Step in. Stand up.


{Also, please take the time to watch this important Ted talk}

Sexual Assault Hotline: 877-995-5247

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Nope.

High School is over, I’m now a freshman in college and it’s April. I’m sitting here in my dorm looking at all my clothes, and bins thinking, how in the hell will this all fit in my car again? It is crazy, I need to be thinking about all of this now because there is one month of my freshman year left, just one.

All I can keep thinking is how? Wasn’t it just last week that I moved into my cozy room at the end of the hall, or just yesterday that I ran home to two hundred beautiful new sisters? As much as it seems like yesterday, it wasn’t.

It was almost eight months ago that I stepped onto this campus as a freshman, now it is my last four weeks and they are jam-packed. From formal to finals I am in the home stretch of my first year of college. I just registered for my classes next semester, and can’t get it through my head that I will soon be a sophomore.

While walking around campus I still catch myself thinking, wow I am really here. I am a college student, at a school, I fall more in love with every day. So, how can I be a sophomore now when I feel like I just got here?

Yes, I still have three amazing years of college ahead of me, and I can’t wait to see what those years have in store in for me. But, I just can’t help but feel a little sad that I won’t be a freshman anymore. I won’t be the youngest in my sorority family, I won’t be coming back to a dorm every night.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am stoked to live in an apartment next year with my absolute best friends. And you definitely could have heard me saying “I am so over this whole dorm thing” once or twice this semester, but now I can’t help but see all the things I’ll miss.

Freshman year is just unique. You get this giant clean slate, a fresh start. And it is just waiting to see what you’ll do with it. It truly is a year of firsts. My first failure, the first time being on my own, my first time not knowing anyone in my classes. Yes, that can all be a lot to take on, I was terrified at the start of the school year. But before I knew it, I had a routine, I had friends, I had a life here.

And this life surpassed all my expectations. I have a home away from home. I have friends that I know will be my bridesmaids some day. I have experiences that I’ll never forget.

Now as I head back home for the summer I couldn’t be more excited to be with my friends there and my family. But, I also couldn’t be sadder to leave my friends here, even if it’s only for three months because they’ve become another kind of family.

Despite leaving freshman year behind, we have so many more memories to make whether it’s doing the Seminole chop in Doak, coordinating our Halloween costumes, or just chilling at the house. We’ve all come so far this year, and I can’t wait to see just how far we go. So bring it on Sophomore year, I’m ready for ya.

Cover Image Credit: Cameron Kira

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Your Feelings Are Not Invalid, It's OK To Not Be OK

I know that life can get really hard, but I promise it'll be okay.

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Recently, I have had an extremely hard time with my level of happiness that I have in my life. I go through my days feeling overly exhausted by the drama and hardship around me. I have gone through the past few weeks really struggling with this stint of depression and anxiety that I have been fighting with through the course of my life. These past few weeks, I have had large issues with this feeling of not being good enough and feeling like the world around me is falling apart because of stress and drama and self-image issues happening around me. I was at a point where I found myself not being able to have a positive thought in my mind and it was feeling like the whole world was against me.

I hate feeling like this. I feel like my world is crashing down and I truly just want to feel better. I have come to the conclusion in my life that the world I find myself living in makes us feel like if you feel depressed or upset, you have an issue and you are not alright. Numerous times I have been told that I need to get over it or that my issues are just "first world issues" that do not matter. This has shown me that there is communication in our world that is not being discussed. Depression has become this thing that society looks at so commonly and we have become accustomed to the idea of people around us being depressed that it makes us numb to it. This has made people think of depression as something not as horrible as it truly is because "everyone" has it. Depression is something that is extremely detrimental to the person being affected by it.

My journey with depression and anxiety started at a young age. I would have anxiety attacks at random times because of untold issues that I was having with my father or issues with bullying. From that young age, I learned very quickly to put up an act when I was around people because I didn't want them to tell me that I needed to get over it or tell me that it was not an actual issue and I was just being dramatic. I kept my mouth shut and pretended that this black mass wasn't engulfing me into is and pulling me deeper and deeper into this whole that was full of self-deprecating thoughts and images. People in school with me and that went dancing with me couldn't tell at all. They thought that I was this nice, happy little girl and honestly, I couldn't be mean to anyone else because all of my efforts were being put into being mean to myself. But, as I said, I couldn't express this to anyone because I felt like this issue I was having was one that I shouldn't be having and that there was something wrong with me for feeling this way.

Here's the thing: it has taken me so long to realize it, but I have come to understand that it is okay not to be okay.

Going through my life with this overall and underlying sadness and self-image trouble does prevent me from doing some things, but it does not mean that I need to stop doing what I am. I do have this issue but it is alright for me to talk about it and there is nothing wrong with me for feeling the way I do because at this point in my life and in history, there are a lot of things I have to deal with that are not the greatest mentally. Understanding the issue and talking about it is the only way to improve my metal standing, however, and I feel like this right to talk about it should not feel like it is too taboo to actually have conversations about. The world around us though needs to listen and stop blowing off these issues like they are not important. I have experienced many times this idea of someone telling me that I complain too much after I talk to them about the struggles I have in my life and I am sick and tired of feeling as though my problems do not matter. Big or small, people react to hardships differently and this needs to be something that the world understands and listens to.

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