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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Sexual assault victims have to fight to find their voices

Imagine you’re going through your worst nightmare. All you want is to scream so someone will hear you, or run as fast as you can so you’ll be far away from it, but you can’t. It’s a relief to wake up and realize that you’re in your own bed, at home and safe, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, to some people, their beds are actually the source of their nightmares.

Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University senior, came forward last semester and admitted she had been sexually assaulted. As shocking as it may be, the school didn’t believe a word she said and, therefore, didn’t expel or suspend her rapist. So, she found a way to overcome her fears.

“For my senior thesis, I’ll be doing a piece called ‘Carry that Weight’ where I will be carrying this dorm room mattress with me everywhere I go for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist,” said Sulkowicz in an YouTube video on the Columbia Daily Spector channel.

A reporter from The Daily Beast, Cathy Young, contacted Sulkowicz to write an article about what happened. However, it became clear to Sulkowicz that Young, as many other reporters had, thought her a deceiver.

One of the reasons why they thought of her that way is because she was friends with her rapist and had had sex with him before.

“We know from the data that we have, that 90 percent of the sexual assaults occurring on college campuses are by friends, by intimate partners, by hookup partners, by people the survivors knew and trusted,” said sophomore, Community Aids Awareness Project Member and consent educator and intern for the sexual violence prevention coordinator Molly Anne Marcotte.

The fact that sexual assault on college campuses is still ongoing isn’t a surprise to anyone. But, it might be shocking to know that a lot of people refuse to come forward thanks to the massive criticism they hear from social and mass media.

“I’ve heard people speak, and I’ve heard people who voiced their opinion about it, and it is pretty scary the thought that they go through, like ‘Should I report them? Should I not?’” said senior Joshua Williams.

The problem relies on the image of the perfect victim.

“The concept of the ‘perfect victim’ is very interesting,” said first-year and Vice-President of Sexual Assault Awareness Support Advocacy Eliza Stevenson. “People have this image of the survivor as a white, straight girl who’s a virgin and the perpetrator as someone like a man with a mask in a dark alley.

“Of course that scenario has happened as well, but incest assaults, assaults on black women and in the LGBTQ community are some of the most unreported rapes.”

Another reason why a lot of survivors have been criticized is because they wait a long time to report a rape.

“It is not uncommon for survivors to wait days or even years before telling others about their experience,” said Wellness Education Coordinator and Community Director Kristie Wyatt in an email interview. “Trauma (such as sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence) affects each survivor differently, and there is no ‘right’ way to respond.”

There must be comprehension and compassion for victims of sexual assault or rape.

“A sexual assault becomes such a big part of a survivor’s daily life and it’s a long journey to process it,” said junior the President of SAASA Alexandra Barbour in an email interview. “It’s not something that can be rushed, so it’s unfortunate that survivors are criticized for trying to heal on their own timeline.”

We all, as human beings and as a society, must stop judging those who also have to carry a “mattress” around and help them by sharing the weight. No one should feel helpless and alone while facing their own nightmares.

“So, when someone comes to you, and wants to share something with you, I think that we need to sit down and shut our mouths,” said Marcotte

In other words: less questions, more listening.

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About the Contributor
Beatriz Caldas, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Beatriz's goal is to make sure that every person on campus has a voice, that every group is being represented, and that The Guilfordian becomes #1 in reporting Social Justice stories not only from Guilford, but from all around the globe. Beatriz comes from Brazil and is able to speak four languages.

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    jackFeb 20, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    “I love you Paul”