***Content warning: this article mentions instances of sexual and physical assault. Read with caution.***
Blacksburg was hit hard last week. After a fellow Hokie spoke out about her abusive relationship followed by a devastating shooting downtown, our small little college town is suffering. To me, it seems like the list of grievances continues to grow. We’ve received 15 emails from the Virginia Tech Police Department regarding situational awareness or sexual assault since classes started last fall, and that’s just the ones that were reported. The same message over and over again: The Virginia Tech Police Department received a report of a sexual assault that occurred somewhere on campus, and the survivor and the offender either knew each other or were strangers. It’s become such a common occurrence that these emails don’t even surprise me anymore, which is disgusting.
When will things change? When will women feel safe navigating through campus alone or in groups, in the dark or in direct sunlight, with or without protection? When will students feel comfortable going to class or enjoying what downtown has to offer without worrying about guns or losing their lives? This is not an environment in which students should get an education. This is not acceptable.
I listen to the stories of those who speak out. I listen when women on campus fear for their safety among groups of men, and I listen when students say they’re scared to open their doors at night. After the attacks that happened last fall, there are plenty of female students who have had to learn how to protect themselves. They now know how to protect themselves from sexual or physical assault because of events that have happened in Blacksburg. The only reason we’re all here is to get an education, but we’re scared. We’re scared and the only thing we can do is protect ourselves. We pay money to attend this university, yet we don’t feel safe leaving the library late at night or walking to our cars by ourselves. Something isn’t adding up here.
Among all the darkness last week, I watched something beautiful happen: how we came together as a community to support each other. Student organizations sprung to social media to voice their concerns regarding abusive relationships; I watched story after story of sororities, fraternities, female organizations, media organizations and even organizations from other universities posting in support of our Hokie who shared her story. It was truly amazing how many people had her back. After the incident that happened downtown on Friday, it happened once again. People, organizations and businesses were posting to spread awareness and ask for thoughts and prayers. The community came together and relied on one another to get through such a devastating night.
In such hard times, it’s increasingly important that we rely on one another for help. This is Blacksburg, this is home, and in this home, we do not sexually or physically assault one another. As Hokies, we need to do our part to keep our campus and our community safe, to make it a place where current and future students can have a pleasant educational experience. I’ve had enough with the violence on campus, and it needs to end. Let’s do our part to make it end.
- The Virginia Tech Women’s Center: (540) 231-7806
- Cook Counseling Center: (540) 231-6557
- NRV Women’s Resource Center: (540) 639-9592
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233