Editor’s Note: In collaboration with Lotus Magazine, Manhattan College’s women’s empowerment magazine, The Quadrangle will be featuring three guest writers from its fellow student publication over the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month.
In my time at Manhattan, I have been most fortunate to serve on the editorial boards of both The Quadrangle and Lotus Magazine.
Though I have greatly enjoyed my time doing journalism with The Quadrangle, Lotus has provided an outlet for me to write about the experiences of womanhood, a topic which is of particular interest to me. In my time at Lotus, though often positive and inspiring, I have also been discouraged and have seen people roll their eyes when they learn I write for “that feminist thing.”
Too often, feminism turns into a joke or a stereotype. I even have professors on this campus who make fun of the “Me Too” movement, and think of it as just another bra-burning feminist movement, which, of course, it isn’t. There is nothing bra-burning or radical about demanding an end to systematic sexual assault.
The problem here is people only seem to care about sexual assault when it happens to them or someone close to them. But let me tell you something: you definitely know someone who has been through something horrific in terms of sexual assault, though you might not actually be aware of it. Just because one of your friends or family members didn’t make a “me too” post on social media does not erase the fact that it happened, and is still happening. That is why Me Too gained such traction: because the problem is so widespread.
And, in spite of the heartbreaking stories from people across the world, society still wants to dismiss Me Too as “just another bra-burning feminist movement.”
Little does my professor know what some of the women in my class, including myself, have been through. Just in that tiny classroom, there are likely some terrible stories having to do with the issue. I know there are at least my experiences, and those probably pale in comparison with some of the others.
I recently heard a statistic that four percent of sexual assault allegations are later proven to be unfounded or false. I believe that they are stating that statistic incorrectly. That number means that ninety-six percent of sexual assault allegations are true. Ninety-six percent.
But our society continues to focus on that four percent, and uses it to invalidate the other, vast majority of people who did tell the truth about their experiences. And when sexual assault survivors are shut down, it makes others not want to come forward. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
Earlier this year, I co-wrote an article with Lauren Schuster, titled “Manhattan Trails Benchmarks on Sexual Assault.” In the process of writing that article, Lauren and I did lots of reading and research and found severe discrepancies between our school’s sexual assault policies in comparison with other nearby institutions of higher education, discrepancies which absolutely shocked us.
Not long after this article was published, a Manhattan College student was sexually assaulted between Tibbett Avenue and W. 236 St. The email from the Office of Public Safety, which informed the students of the incident, showed absolutely no sympathy for the victim, failing to even mention her when they weren’t talking about what happened to her. Instead, the email immediately distanced the college from the incident by saying, “This incident did not occur on College property and at this time it is believed the [perpetrator] has no affiliation with Manhattan College.” I interpret that sentence as, “It didn’t occur on our campus, and therefore, it’s not our problem, even though the victim is a student here.”
The email further infuriated me by then listing some actions students could take to avoid getting sexually assaulted. Nowhere in the email did the Office of Public Safety condemn the actions committed by the perpetrator, and by providing these “tips”, the responsibility is put on us to not get raped, rather than on them to remind people not to rape.
Now, one could say that the Office of Public Safety does not need to include a condemnation of sexual assault, because it should be a given. Yes, it should be a given, but is it really? Clearly, people feel some sort of justification in terms of sexual assault, considering how widespread the problem is.
By giving these “tips”, sure, an assault or two might be prevented, but there is always going to be a girl who is less sober, more lost and less prepared than me. And I want her to be just as safe as I am.
And in the end, that is what Me Too is really about: bringing the widespread problem to light in hopes of facilitating an environment where women can not only feel safe, but be safe.
To read the article referenced in this editorial, visit mcquad.org