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Just another face

A Westminster student advocates for change at Students for Choice's Take Back the Night march on April 12 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In the state of Utah, 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Photo by Angie Merkley

A Westminster student advocates for change at Students for Choice’s Take Back the Night march on April 12 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In the state of Utah, 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Photo by Angie Merkley

I sit in class with you. I work out on the treadmill and in the weight room next to you. I shop at Smith’s next to you. I ski up at Brighton and Alta next to you.

I am a member of the Westminster community.

I am also one in five.

Sitting down to write this sucks.

I don’t want to write it, but I want to write it. My family doesn’t know this happened except my brother.

I was driving home on the Belt Route from Brighton when I told Frazer, my brother. I was driving trying to focus on not crying as I told him what happened. He was demanding that nothing bad had ever happened to me.

I told him my story. My story that I’ve never told my mother, father, roommates and most others that circulate through my life.

“Things happen to everyone,” he finally said. And that was it. We never talked about it again.

I was sexually assaulted about well over a year before that interaction with my brother, yet I shut off.

I sat there and said nothing for the remainder of the ride. Silence. Consumed in thoughts and memories that make you feel as though you are isolated, broken and crazy, all stuck in this container of a body.

“Has anyone here ever been assaulted?” asks a male peer in one of my classes this semester. My head immediately shoots to stare at the floor.

Remain calm, I tell my brain. Breathe in, breathe out, the blood rushing to my head.

“I don’t think that’s a very appropriate question,” I manage to muster. Appropriate question. Fuck. Was that the right answer, though?

I look back, and I was weak. I felt like crying as my body hit shock was flooded with memories. I should have responded better.

I flashed back to being just a container, a container filled with thoughts of self-loathing and isolation, sitting in a room full of peers not knowing what to say.

But, I sit here now ready to respond. I have processed, and I am ready… at least I hope I’m ready.

Women 18-24 who are enrolled in college are three times more likely than women in general to suffer from sexual violence. On the other side, females of the same age who are not enrolled in college are four times more likely to suffer, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, Office of Justice Programs 2014 reports.

Although, my assault did not happen on campus or in Utah, it is carried here like an extra limb.

I can hear the jokes of Title IX policies. Jokes of consent. I can hear them… and others like me can, too.

Rhetoric surrounding Title IX even from faculty and staff: “I am required to say this. I have to say this.”

We take a measly three minutes out of syllabus day to discuss Title IX, normally led with, “I’m sure you all are familiar with this policy.”

And then disregard it. We never humanize it. It doesn’t happen here at Westminster, it happens at big schools with fraternities or large sports schools.

No. It happens here. We have survivors here. Walking, breathing and drinking coffee in Bassis.

I’m repairing myself after three years. But I wish that we just had the common decency to discuss this. Why do we take something that is supposed to protect and help, yet make it into a procedural joke?

Why not address that this is an incredibly vulnerable point of lives of young women for sexual assault? Or discuss that this isn’t just a women’s issue?

Sexual assault affects everyone.

This climate of procedures and rhetoric like ‘complainant’ makes me feel ill.

Sexual assault is a shitty recovery process. It doesn’t go away. I’m still stumbling through mine and don’t ever see a clear door out.

Some days are better than others. And then some days there are setbacks. As the days pass, I am being more forgiving and loving of myself. I am not ready to be a full-time advocate for the cause because I still need to steady myself.

There are past journal entries of mine begging for understanding: “Here sits my hollow self, here I sit, I crave clarity and reasoning. Craving so bad I’ve bitten holes in my bottom lip clenching my teeth, clarity is but a dissipating thought.”

Yet, I am just one on this campus. There are more of us. Male, female, trans, non-binary; we are here. We have faces, names and purpose.

I am one of five. But I am more than just that statistic.

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