Monday, May 2, 2011

Eye Opener - Sexual Assault Hits Home

Today marks the beginning of a sad week in McDaniel College's neck of the woods. Yesterday morning I woke from a good night's sleep to find the following email waiting for me:

"On Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at approximately 1:30 a.m. a female McDaniel College student was walking home from an off-campus event that had taken place in the 230 block of Pennsylvania Ave.  The student was approached by a white male, approximately 35 years of age.  He is described as: thin to medium build, approximately 5’8”, with a scruffy beard and short brown hair, wearing jeans and a plain black hooded sweatshirt.  After a brief verbal exchange, the student was physically forced into the yard of 218 Pennsylvania Ave. and was sexually assaulted.  The student fought off the suspect and returned to campus.  The student contacted the Department of Campus Safety, who immediately responded to support the student and assist local law enforcement agencies in their investigation and search for the perpetrator."
Reading this to a few family members, I was shocked to hear their responses, particularly when relating the information to two male family members. The first, after being read the email, responded simply with, "Yes, that is, if she's even telling the truth." The second responded, "It's not big deal. There are [sexual predators] everywhere. They're in this neighborhood, they're in other neighborhoods, they're where we work, they're everywhere we go. Nothing you can do about it. Nothing to worry about." My mother, the only female in the residence at the time, was also the only person to become legitimately concerned for my wellbeing on the campus and the other girls on campus, as well as overtly sympathetic toward the actual female that was attacked.
Yes, sexual assault is not exactly rare. But the rate at which it occurs does not make it okay. Are we really so desensitized to this sort of thing that we allow it to become commonplace? After bringing this up with a friend, she said something that just might hold some truth: perhaps this has become commonplace because the message is always "Don't let yourself get raped" rather than "Do not rape."

Will you allow the women of your communities to become the "usual victims"? Or is sexual assault, particularly when it occurs in close-knit communities, something more to you than just another statistic?

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