This past Wednesday, Rolling Stone published an article that greatly impacted our community. From those directly involved in the story to those who have never before been touched by this issue, everyone has been affected. Our community will never be the same. The range of emotions, from mild to intense, felt by our peers is apparent in every class, every conversation and every gathering. These emotions, however, cannot and should not be ignored. Instead, we must channel these sentiments into something productive that moves our community forward. Far too often, the things we become passionate about fall by the wayside. No more. We must create productive and sustainable change that drives forward the conversation, and creates dialogue that we can build on. We recognize that individuals and organizations have the desire to act — that they are unable to sit idly while there is so much pain among our fellow Wahoos. We encourage thoughtful and intentional activism as opposed to reactionary responses in dealing with this trying issue. With the support of each other, we can unite to become the resounding voice needed in our movement forward.
Regardless of our personal affiliations, we must not lose sight of our humanity. We have an opportunity to recognize the spaces for change in our community. We have an opportunity to unite and channel our emotions into constructive conversations and productive actions. We know this means different things for different people. But we ask that as you move forward you keep a few things in mind. There are many survivors in our community. They are survivors of sexual harassment, stalking, intimate partner violence and sexual assault. They have various gender identities, sexual orientations and backgrounds. It is important that we recognize the unique experiences of the survivors in our community, and respect the voices that act as catalysts for cultural and institutional change.
As we move forward we must recognize that this shift will not happen overnight, but rather must be a deliberate, collaborative and continuous effort. Real change will not be driven just by advocacy groups, activists and the administration, but by the entire community. Our emotions are raw, but they must not consume us. There is no easy solution. This will not be solved overnight. Yet, if we come together, we can improve our community’s treatment and awareness of this issue. If we continue to think and talk about this openly, we can and will make positive change. These changes have been coming, driven by peer education groups and embraced by so many students. Initiatives such as #HoosGotYourBack, the Hand Print Project, and the upcoming GreenDot program are all supported by many students and members of the administration. At the present, we have the tools available to work toward a healthier community, and we have the passion to make it happen. A call to action is echoing across grounds, a message burning loud and clear, waiting for us to hear it.
Many of us may feel attacked in the wake of this article and feel our culture is being blamed, but we cannot ignore the article’s central truth: acts of sexual assault such as this have occurred and will continue to occur on our grounds until we truly come together to prevent them. Yet, after all of the actions and reactions in response to this article, there is hope. There is hope that we as a community will care enough about this issue to fight and to affect lasting change — so that those who follow us will be proud. It happens together, but it begins with each one of us. We have the power to change our own behavior and to stand together to say “no more.” We have the power to end the cycle of violence that is pervasive in our community. We have the power to set precedence for all universities, to choose our actions wisely as we move forward. This is a national problem, but it is one that we have the power to change at our University — starting right now. We have the power. Let’s be the change.
Today, just as every other day, we stand with survivors.
This piece was written by the leadership of One Less, One in Four and the Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition.