Fighting an Epidemic during a Pandemic

While the UWM community has been recently and greatly affected by COVID-19, there is another phenomenon that has been affecting the UWM community for decades now, sexual assault. Yes, one is a pandemic but the other is an epidemic affecting college campuses throughout the country. And UWM is no stranger to that epidemic. 

This past April, the WRC, and other UWM partners worked to ensure that survivors of sexual assault were not lost in the shadow of the pandemic world. To support survivors, the Sexual Assault Awareness Month committee created and facilitated events through online platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and canvas. Events like “These Hands Aren’t Meant for Hurting”, “GRRRL Justice”, “Survivor Support Virtual Yoga”, “Denim Day”, and “TBTN Social Media March” were very successful in bringing allies and survivors together during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  

Year after year, UWM continues to shatter the silence of the sexual assault epidemic on its campus. As a survivor myself, I am extremely proud and grateful for how supportive the UWM community becomes during SAAM. With sexual assault becoming so visible during April, it can be heartbreaking to see just how many students are affected by it. However, there is a wonderful solidarity in standing by a fellow survivor. It is healing to know you are not alone and you are supported. To all of those needing someone to talk to, but are not quite yet ready to report has happened to them… UWM has a confidential victim advocate who you can speak to about what has happened to you.  

During SAAM, the WRC typically hosts Take Back the Night which features a survivor speak out. While the speak out was not able to occur, I still had some thoughts that I wanted to share:  

To those it may concern (everyone),  

R*pe culture continues to be a disgusting phenomenon that permeates through lives of survivors and the general community. In April, we visibly recognize that survivors are NOT responsible for what has happened to them. A victim does not get r*ped, the perpetrator r*pes them. What someone was wearing does not matter. What someone was drinking does not matter. What matters is that something happened to someone. Sick people will do sick things regardless of the circumstances.  

We live in a world that makes women feel sorry for what has happened to them. Our pain, Our trauma, and Our grief over who they were before they were assaulted…are not considered more valuable than a man’s potential.  

We live in a world that silences survivors. We must not speak about what has happened because then we are seeking attention or bringing everyone down. Clearly, I have no problem talking about this. However, some of you may feel uncomfortable. To you I say, sit in your discomfort. Does it make you mad? Does it make you sad? Do you wish you never knew this about me? Dig deep and find the roots of those feelings. Understand your own negative ideas about survivors. Use the emotions to stand with survivors rather than against us.  

Change does not come from being silent or indifferent toward these topics. Change comes from people revolting against this culture. Change comes from people working to change their preconceived ideas about sexual assault. This month, I have chosen to use my personal voice to bring awareness and change. A voice that was ignored, a voice that then reported, and a voice that refuses to remain silent.  

However, every survivor is different. Remember, not every survivor needs to tell you their story for you to believe them. Trust someone when they say something has happened to them. Know that you are likely around a survivor everywhere you go since 1/5 of women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.  

I am someone’s sister. I am someone’s daughter. I am someone’s friend. I am someone’s coworker. MORE IMPORTANTLY, I am someone. And now, I am someone you know who has been sexually assaulted.  

Fortunately, I have processed my trauma and I have taken what has happened to me and used it for good. I know that I am strong, I am worthy of love, and I am beautiful inside and out despite the fact. Lastly, I know that I am valuable, it was not my fault, and I will not be silenced.  

Yours truly, 

Someone you know