It’s on All of Us

Every morning, while on the treadmill or while eating my instant oatmeal, I turn on CNN. I usually see an event that frustrates and worries me, something that makes me scared for our future. But then I leave the gym or go to class and that event escapes my mind. I find that when bad events happen, they stay in our minds for a day, a week at most, and then we move on.

In light of the recent events of alleged sexual assault, there have been forums, formal discussions, casual conversations, protests and a general heightened desire to come together and fight a problem that has long needed a solution. I have taken part in countless discussions in which men are learning about the issue, asking questions and seeking clarity from their female peers. I have seen the administration and SGA make an honest effort to hear our concerns. I have been around groups of women who have tangible ideas of how to make this campus a safer and more welcoming place.

It is a topic that society has historically been hesitant to bring to the forefront of public discourse – out of discomfort, sadness or even apathy. But we are finally beginning to care as a community. We are finally beginning to identify the problem, assess the root causes of this behavior and condemn complicity. We are asking all women to show solidarity – not only for those in your Greek organization, but for all women on this campus. We expect the administration to be more forthcoming when dealing with sexual assault. We expect to be heard.

It frustrates me when I hear people discussing reactive measures to take. People have asserted that implementing sober monitors at every fraternity door will undoubtedly prevent future assaults by making women feel safer in male-dominated spaces, and hopefully alleviate rape culture. However, this type of rhetoric and problem-solving normalizes the unacceptable behavior of men, and I worry if it will halt the tide of sexual violence in the long run. Women should be able to walk into any space on this campus without fear of being sexually assaulted. More than just teaching preventative measures so that no one gets assaulted, we need to also be teaching, questioning, debating and attacking why men on campus feel entitled to carry out these assaults, and why when those cases come forward, they aren’t punished.

It starts with developing a shared sense of common decency and awareness – I believe the Colgate community has made tremendous strides in this regard (although we have a long way to go). Next, we need to take proactive steps to educate ourselves on the issue of sexual assault and rape culture, and better understand the subtleties that make this such a difficult issue to address. Fortunately, there are resources and people on this campus that can help, like Haven and the counseling center. The burden cannot be placed on the survivors to explain what support looks like, or what we could be doing. It’s on each one of us to work harder to be accountable and be better for all women.

We owe it to the survivors – past and present – to continue this conversation and fight for what is right and decent. It’s our job to make sure that the sudden spike in awareness and discourse on this issue doesn’t end when this school year ends, but that it continues into next year and all future years. I want to look back at my time on this campus with pride, knowing that I was part of the community that set its sights on dismantling the rape culture that defines not only Colgate’s campus, but also campuses across the country.