She is beautiful: golden skin and sparkling hair. She is a Wake Forest girl through and through: well dressed and put together. She is kind, charming and witty. She is your best friend since the first semester of freshman year. She is your roommate. She is your lab partner. She sits next to you in Sociology. She frequents the same floor of the ZSR. She waits next to you in line at Moe’s.
I’m sure you’ve seen her too. And if you turn away quickly enough, you would never notice. You would not pick up on the deep, dark circles under her eyes. You would not hear the uneasy note that rings through her laughter. You would not see the way her foot taps anxiously as she scans Benson to see if he is around. These are the little things we can fail to see… the signs that someone we know has been sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault and rape happen on all college campuses, including right here at Wake Forest University.
It can be very difficult to swallow.
We often assume that the “Wake Forest bubble” will protect us from any harm. Inside the bubble, we feel that we are surrounded by smart, good-looking students who are “going places.” We expect our peers will go on to become doctors, lawyers and CEOs.
But what must we also realize?
That any of these people, at any time, may become the perpetrators or survivors of sexual assault and rape.
There is no easy way to come right out and talk about topics such as sexual assault and rape. To discuss them means they are real. The fact of the matter is, they are indeed very real problems that occur here on our campus.
Collegiettes, you may or may not remember the PREPARE programs you attended during orientation week as freshmen, but it is essential to keep yourself informed. Though the first year PREPARE programs are, of course, geared to first year students, the topics discussed are important for each and every one of us to keep in mind, no matter our age or our sex.
During the 40 minute programs, PREPARE leaders discuss healthy relationships and communication, consent, alcohol and how to help a friend who is sexually assaulted. At the end, the audience is left with three main takeaways:
1. Communicate with your partner about what you are and aren’t comfortable with sexually, and make sure to ask if you aren’t sure what your partner wants.
2. Be mindful of the effects of alcohol on yourself and others, particularly when it comes to sexual activity.
3. Look out for others. Step up and intervene if you see a situation that could lead to sexual assault. And, if someone you know is sexually assaulted, do what you can to be a support.
This Thursday, September 27th, was RAINN Day 2012. RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN Day is RAINN’S annual college-wide campaign to empower students to “Take a Stand Against Sexual Violence.” You may have seen the signs lining the lower quad. Hopefully you took a second to stop and read the facts that were written on them. All of them were sobering and important, but in particular this one: approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
Collegiettes: please pay special attention to this fact and to the third PREPARE takeaway. It truly is up to us to look out for one another. Use the buddy system when you go out, especially if you are drinking – sticking together provides protection for both you and your friends.
Always go with your gut feeling if you have the slightest inclination that you may be in questionable circumstances or with questionable company.
Never feel that sexual assault is excused by a short dress, heavy flirting, or too much to drink.
If you notice a change in a friend’s behavior (no matter how slight), reach out. Ask if they’re okay. Listen to what they say. Believe them, and be there for them.
She may be suffering in silence. Let her know that she doesn’t have to.
If you or someone you know may have been a victim of sexual assault or any other type of sexual misconduct prohibited under the Wake Forest Sexual Misconduct Policy, you are strongly encouraged to seek immediate assistance. Assistance can be obtained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Campus Advocacy and Support Services, 336-758-5285. For additional information about seeking medical assistance and emotional support, as well as important contact information, see PREPARE’s Get Help.