April is international Sexual Assault Awareness Month and its purpose is to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
In light of this, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross hosted its annual Take Back the Night event where students from all three campuses joined together to share stories, provide support and march across campuses in solidarity for all those who have been victims of sexual assault and rape.
This was my first year attending this event, and I feel like it impacted me deeply and how I view rape culture both on and off campus. I think I avoided going to this event for the past two years because the subject itself is quite uncomfortable and I was afraid what feelings and memories might arise if I did attend. Sometimes separating ourselves from an issue is less daunting and vulnerable than opening up to the possibility of trauma.
However, after listening to the stories of my peers and witnessing the pain they went through, and continue to go through on a daily basis, I realized that this issue does not only feel uncomfortable but it is uncomfortable. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. If this does not make you uncomfortable, there is a problem.
Lately, we’ve seen many movements like #MeToo arise and encourage victims and the general public to stand up and speak out about sexual violence. The reality of this is that sexual violence has been happening for decades before these movements came about and its uncomfortable nature forced people to remain silent for too long. Our culture of silence on speaking up about the uncomfortable is ultimately at the expense of all the women and men who are forced to live with being uncomfortable. At the end of the day, sexual assault and rape is a human issue that affects the wellbeing and basic dignity of all persons.
The paradox with the uncomfortable is that the only way to change that is to actually engage in the uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. Although sexual violence will never become comfortable, speaking out and raising awareness and creating a culture in which the uncomfortable is recognized and confronted can help to elevate a more comfortable dialogue on this issue and hopefully help in preventing the continually increasing incidents of sexual assault and rape.
The Take Back the Night event and the brave women who shared their traumas inspired me to no longer give in to the uncomfortable and to no longer be silent.