Editorial: Create safe spaces for victims of sexual assault to speak up

Editorial: Create safe spaces for victims of sexual assault to speak up

Earlier this semester, we received a letter to the editor from a young woman who wanted to voice her concern about posters a student group had placed around campus. We ran the piece as anonymous, as it dealt with a deeply personal and sensitive manner.

We were astonished by our community’s willingness to listen to the voice of someone who felt they could not share their experience unless their identity was unknown. This week, we ask the community to once again listen to the voice of someone who feels marginalized.

This week, a young woman has written about her experience with sexual assault. Unfortunately, her experience is all too common. As we enter the last week of sexual assault prevention month, our intention in publishing this piece is to draw attention to this issue that affects men and women in our community and around the world.

Sexual assault cases are deeply personal and extremely sensitive. They’re also, like our anonymous writer pointed out, largely kept under the table. In a culture where any sexual activity carries judgment and shame, people are quick to point fingers and quick to shift blame.

“I know of people who don’t believe me, people who blame me and people who make me afraid to write this article,” the woman wrote. This statement is heartbreaking. How many of our sisters and friends are hiding secrets they don’t trust us with? What can we do to be safe listeners?

Sexual assault prevention is about more than just the decision not to assault — something I hope everyone knows not to do. It is about creating a space for victims to speak up. It is about opening up conversation, and tearing down the stigma that surrounds the topic.

I urge you to ask yourself if our community is a safe space for people to speak up. How would you respond if your sister, friend, or acquaintance told you she was sexually assaulted?

Would you believe her? Blame her? Ask her what she was wearing or what she was doing at the time? Would she be afraid to talk about it or share it in an article?

Calvin has made a commitment towards Safer Spaces. How can we?