Editor’s Column: Support Survivors Year-Round

They say that every ending is a new beginning. The ending of October leads into the beginning of the next month, as does the ending of every other month of the year. For many, October 31 is Halloween and nothing more. For me, October 31 marks the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s the last day before the topic is pushed back and forgotten until the following October 1.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned since becoming a student here at Colgate, it’s that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every October and April, programming heavily focuses on domestic violence awareness and sexual assault awareness, respectively, though attempts are often made to be inclusive of survivors/victims of other forms of sexual violence throughout both months.

I can still remember the first time I stepped onto the academic quad and could hear chanting about sexism in the distance. I remember feeling confused and wondering what was going on. I guess even as a first-year, I didn’t look at the campus calendar often enough. I could see the human chain forming around the Center for Women Studies before I could make out what was being said.

I don’t remember what was being shouted with so much passion yet so much pain. I can only remember the tightening in my chest, the shortening of my breath and the darkness seeping into my vision. Somehow, I made it back to my dorm, to the wonderful pre-renovation Center Stillman, where I struggled to calm myself down. In the following weeks, I found myself having panic attacks. The nightmares I had gone years without having came back. For the first time, I had been triggered. Colgate might be the single most triggering place I have ever been.

Over time, I began to strongly dislike the months of October and April. You can’t just tell yourself to not be triggered and then actually not be triggered. At least, I can’t. If you can, or know someone who can, please enlighten me. Octobers and Aprils on this campus have consistently been rough, to say the least. I actually used to be glad that raising awareness was concentrated within two months. I figured that at least that way my mental health would only be compromised two months of the year.

There’s this thing that people love to say on campus along the lines of “feel free to step out of the room and take care of yourself.” I really don’t believe that we, self-identified survivors and victims, should be held responsible for taking care of ourselves. We should be provided more support, and not only during October and April.

While awareness months are great, we shouldn’t be limited to them. I am not a survivor one month a year or two months a year. I am a survivor every single day. I want November to be a new beginning: The beginning of year-round discussions of sexual violence, the beginning of letting marginalized voices feel heard, the beginning of taking care of each other. November can be a new beginning for me and a new beginning for you, if you’ll join me.

Contact Jazmin Pavon at [email protected].