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Op-Ed | Reclaiming my body: Sexual Violence at Tufts

Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 15:02


Trigger warning: sexual assault and rape.

Being a woman, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I have been sexually assaulted by the age of 20, especially with a statistic of 1 in 5 women reporting being sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to a 2011 New York Times article. 
Being sexually assaulted twice by the age of 20, and having one of those incidents occur at Tufts, however, was a surprise.

Here at Tufts, we have many wonderful programs and groups that advocate for rape and sexual assault prevention and discuss how women can attempt to prevent it from happening to them. We learn about hook-up culture and rape culture and hear all the horror stories—though many of them seem surreal, as if it couldn’t happen to Tufts students, and the seriousness and reality of sexual assault only becomes a horror story that we may warn our children about one day.

The problem with the lack of reality in relation to sexual assault is that, when it does happen to you, you may not even know you were sexually assaulted. Society allows for so many excuses that make us brush off incidents of sexual assaults as drunken idiocy or “boys being stupid.” These allowances build up a stigma about rape and sexual assault that is less than serious. Serious discussions turn into horror stories, horror stories turn into myths and myths turn into jokes.

The reality of sexual assault is that it eats you alive. It kills good parts of you that others used to see. Sexual assault is a parasite that buries itself in your bones and doesn’t let you forget. It is something that goes away with time, and time is something college students don’t have. I am proud to say that, after having been sexually assaulted twice within my first two years of being an adult, I have gone to counseling and been able to discuss and come to terms with what happened to me. I am able to be in a relationship without having trust issues and without worry of a repeat of the past. This recovery process of returning to my “old self,” however, took two years, which is time that I will never regain.

But sexual assault and rape is just a joke if it hasn’t happened to you, right? The idea of consent and laws about it are just just a joke, right?

Wrong. Your body is something that you will have for the rest of your life, and when it’s wronged, it’s hard to just brush off what happened. It may have not happened to you, but it could, and statistics say it is reasonably likely if you’re a woman. Being a woman, you have the responsibility to own your body and are the only person who has claim over it. You are never obliged to give it to anyone, but you always have the choice to do what you want with it. 

I wish I could forget or erase the incidents which happened to me, but it is something I will live with forever. As a victim and survivor, I feel that I have the responsibility to educate others on how to prevent sexual assault from happening to other people. At Tufts, this is more difficult than it seems, though we are given the illusion that Tufts is “open-minded” and “considerate” and “things like that don’t happen at Tufts”, because many people who care about this topic have been affected by sexual assault or rape in one way or another and those that don’t have not.

This is a message to those who do not make rape and sexual assault a priority, no matter how small that priority may be. The fact that peers, whether or not you know it, have been sexually assaulted should automatically make you realize that it is not “cool” to joke about sexual assault and rape. The fact that there are people on this campus who have become depressed, suicidal, and have suffered because of these traumatic events should make you understand that sexual assault and rape are very real. The fact that victims and survivors of these events have lost friends, sleep, relationships, and time due to these tragedies should make it very obvious that these issues need to be addressed.

The fact that nothing happened after reporting a sexual assault at Tufts shows how much of an issue this is here at Tufts. The fact that if you Google “tufts tumblr,” you can find a blog about a previous student who had been raped on this campus and for whom nothing happened makes it even more obvious how huge of an issue this is. These issues with reporting sexual assaults and rape should not be occurring at our university, nor should sexual assault or rape at all. Addressing the problems with sexual violence on campus takes time, effort and a lot of people who are willing to make a change, and Tufts is lucky enough to have students that are willing to help with that. Education, however, is only one part of the process toward ending sexual violence on campus, and that education only reaches those who are willing to be taught.

The sad thing is that some students are more worried about calling out other students for being “too sensitive” or “too PC” about the issue than solving the problems we have on this campus. The truth is, the people who care about this topic aren’t attempting to be ostentatiously asinine for the sake of ruining your day. For all you know, they could be a survivor or victim of sexual assault or a friend, family member, or acquaintance of one. Yet people want to point fingers and continue to joke about rape because standing up to a friend for making a joke about rape would be “killing the mood” or “being a prude.”

So please jump off your pedestal and attempt to understand that victims of sexual violence aren’t trying to be fun-killers. We just don’t want to relive moments we’d rather forget.

The author of this op-ed is a Tufts undergraduate student who wishes to remain anonymous. 

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