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This past week as a Rhodes’s student and as a woman has been a difficult one. Once again, we are shown the consequences of a consequence-free society, one that does not hold men accountable for their actions of sexual violence. As I write this, I realize that I come from a certain perspective which is rare– I have never experienced sexual violence. While I have always been adamant about men taking responsibility for their actions, I have felt that since I hadn’t experienced the issue, I was not qualified to speak out against it. I now realize how wrong I was. This week has been a week of reflection for many, and I now strongly believe that turning a blind eye is not only morally wrong, but harmful. Silence is never the anecdote, and as I say this am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Elie Wiesel.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”

Last Friday, Rhodes students held a silent protest in the library for the victims of the assaults on campus. While I originally went to show my support for the women and for a culture of consent and respect, I had no idea how much I felt the enormous weight of the issue at hand. As soon as the silence began, I looked out into the crowd and saw the faces women I loved, women who have experienced sexual assault, my best friends. I saw my sisters. I no longer saw the issue as something that I had not experienced, but rather felt it as something that deeply affected me, personally. Simply put, if it affects my sister, it affects me. Tears streamed down my face as I stood there in silence, thinking of how I was no longer standing for a principle, but for people.

As a woman, there is no room for complacency on this issue. When we have a president who has bragged about sexually assaulting women on tape, it isn’t a coincidence that men feel like there are no consequences when they treat women as objects. If you have never experienced sexual violence, I write this to you. The issue isn’t just an issue of principle, but an issue of people. Your sisters need your voice, your voice of love, of respect, of power. Now is not the time to be silent. It never is. 

Hi there! I'm a freshman at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and I love a good coffee shop, my sweet kitten, and female friendships.
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