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#MeToo Freshman

When I was a child, I pictured college to be this cheery, idealized place with a bright filter coating all the smiling students with an angelic halo. Yet, just as all other childhood dreams, disillusionment and the darker truth have tainted the once perfect image. Date rape. Hazing. Rampant rape culture. As I prepare to begin my freshman year, I’ve struggled to reconcile these scenarios of college life.

My senior year was a turning point in women’s visibility. Millions upon millions of women  (as well as men and those who do not identify as either) spoke up and told their stories of survival, relieving years of torment and perseverance with “#metoo.”

The #metoo Movement was a time of learning for most, putting names and faces to the “1 in 5” statistic branded into the minds of every woman who had ever taken a sex-ed class. Many said it was a positive: letting the world know how prevalent sexual assault was. This was true, but the darker aspect remained clear as day—there were no consequences for a vast majority of the perpetrators.

A large percentage of these stories brought survivors back to their days in college. Victim blaming, the inefficiency of law enforcement and universities flooded my newsfeed in the following months. My view, like many others, on going to college had somewhat soured in the aftermath of #metoo. How could we feel safe in environments that seemed like a breeding ground for rape culture? Eventually, I had to step out from my concerns and realize that in reality, life for women was getting better. In the past few years, rape culture awareness has become a popular topic. The documentary “The Hunting Ground” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. This film reflected on the ineffective reporting systems for many universities and the ridiculous, and honestly offensive, “consequences” given to rapists—a $25 dollar fine, one-day suspensions, and essays to “reflect” upon their wrongdoings.

Do I fear going to college? Of course, all freshmen do. I know that I will have to watch out for myself everywhere I go, as I have for years. Constantly watching out for signs of danger is something that has been drilled into me like riding a bike. #Metoo has enlightened the world and universities for the future. #Metoo is no longer a badge of shame; it’s a badge of survival. Universities across the world have been having their own small #metoo movements, claiming to have an increase in reported assaults. While many have jumped to the conclusion that the problem is getting worse, the Education Department has come to the conclusion that more people are breaking their silence. The numbers have been staggeringly large, but this is likely telling the story of individuals who had been condemned into silence previously.

Hopefully, as the #metoo movement progresses, it will result in significant and meaningful changes in campus culture. Students will have more of an understanding of what is appropriate. Columbia, for example, implemented a new sexual assault education course over the past few years that teaches students how to be safe so they will be at less risk of a sexual assault themselves and how to recognize scenarios where others may be at risk to be sexually assaulted.

It is somewhat scary being a freshman in the age of #metoo, as we are much more aware of some of the darker truths of college life than our predecessors. Yet in the age of #metoo, I feel a sort of calm, knowing that the world is changing, and my peers and I are better able to recognize and deal with risky situations.

Elizabeth Karpen

Columbia Barnard '22

Lizzie Karpen is a junior at Barnard College, the most fuego of women’s colleges, studying Political Science and English with a concentration in Film. To argue with her very unpopular opinions, send her a message at [email protected] or @lizziekarpen on Instagram and Twitter.
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