Moving Forward After Terrible Things Happen

For the past week, along with many of my compatriots I have worked hard to create a space for survivors through the promotion of the #MeToo movement on our campus. We were able to have important dialogues about what people have experienced and display that harassment and assault take many different forms. Voices were empowered and survivors saw that they were not defined by what had happened to them, that they are strong.

At some point on Wednesday night, someone decided to burn some of the T-Shirts from Clothesline Project in the upper quad. These shirts were hung by the Women’s and Gender Studies department as a way to raise awareness about domestic violence, sexual violence, harassment, and assault in order to empower the voices who have lived through these experiences. The messages were written by students who have either been affected by such violence or knew those who have.

After pouring my heart into organizing #MeToo movement and publicly sharing one of my own experiences, I feel upset, angry, frustrated, and disgusted. The person or people who did this intended harm; this was no accident nor was it a joke. However, there are some part of our community who tend to belittle the act and make it seem as if the person did it as a joke. But are we laughing?


The person that did this horrific act knew exactly what they were doing. They could have thrown a few of the shirts on the ground or in the trash, but no, they decided to play with fire. They felt power seeing the remains of the burned shirt and knowing that it would hit some people in the heart and potentially evoke fear of speaking out again. Bruning the shirt is desecrating someone’s life experience in this case. There is no justification for this and goes against what Augustana stand for.

How do we move forward? If you are being passive in relation to this, you are doing just as much harm as those who decide to speak ill of those affected by sexual violence, harassment, and assault. As a liberal arts institution, we should hold ourselves to higher standards. We all come from different places, backgrounds, and do not look all the same and inclusion is something we preach in many aspects of campus.

As I learned through my part in the #MeToo campaign, these issues impact so many members of our campus. These are people in your classes, these are people you pass in the quad, these are people you are friends with, these are people who are members of your family. Just because their scars aren’t visible and their stories aren’t public does not mean they are not survivors too. I want people to engage in the conversation of sexual violence, harassment, and assault.

This isn’t about the person or people that burned the shirts. This is about the survivors. We believe you, we stand with you, we care about your well-being. We can’t force people to want to stand in the fight against sexual violence, harassment, or assault but what we can do is never give up our own fight.