<< Front page Commentary May 14, 2004

For the love of all survivors

To the Editors:

Let’s just put it out there to begin with. I am a straight, white woman. I am also a survivor of sexual assault on this campus and a member of the Oberlin College community.

When I read about the closure of the SAST hotline I was alarmed, hurt, then confused and outraged. I consider myself a part of this community, and within that, a part of the survivor community on campus. The statistics speak for themselves; one in every three college age women will be assaulted, most within their first or second year on campus, and most by someone they know and perhaps even trust (National Sexual Violence Resource Center).

When I was assaulted I started to meet and hear about other survivors. They are an integral and silent part of our community. Many of us know each other and provide silent support. For various reasons, we don’t talk about our experiences with just anyone. But regardless of race, gender, orientation or identification, if you were assaulted, I feel confident that we could talk and support one another. Even though I am a white, straight woman, I am still a survivor and I am still a person who cares about our community, our entire community.

Many of the letters I have read have been charged with anger, but not an anger focused in the right direction. I can intellectually understand the history of colonization and the pervasive and subtle forms of racism and discrimination that is part of trans and people of color’s every day lives. But I can’t really know how it feels. I can try to take what hurts I have received based on being a woman and expand them to the field of racism, but that too is limited. What I can do is know what it feels like to be physically forced into sexual acts without my consent, and that, I feel, crosses all barriers.

I understand that different cultural backgrounds add different complexities to each sexual assault on this campus. But that can be said for so many aspects in peoples’ lives. Anything from an abusive father to moving around a lot as a child can change the dynamics of sexual assault. I am not trying to say that having a deadbeat dad is the same as living as a person of color in the United States. What I am saying is that there are many complex characteristics to any individual assault. But the bottom line is the assault itself.

Taking this back to the hotline, I have many questions. Was there ever a complaint filed against SAST or the hotline from a person of color or a trans person charging racist or discriminatory practices? Were there ever any surveys done of people of color on campus to gauge their general feelings and get some ideas for improvement? Was there ever a campus-wide survey of how people would feel about the shutdown of the SAST hotline? And were there any active recruitment programs for people of color to work on the hotline? I ask these questions not to negate the feelings of the SAST members who felt the hotline was racist, but for the support of those who have been assaulted and denied a service since the hotline was shut down. I ask in the hope that we can restart the hotline and put a stop to this overly rash action.

The anger we need to have on this campus is against those who assault people. The SAST hotline was a visible entity that said we as a community are against sexual assault, will help the victims and condemn the predators that perpetrate these crimes. The anger we need to have should be focused at ridding our community of these animals, not the one service on campus that helps the victims.

I want the hotline to be accessible for all. But shutting it down makes it accessible for none. With the occurrence of assault as frequent as it is, and the only other places to turn Lorain County services or the administration, the SAST hotline was the only place for Oberlin students to go that would help and understand them. Please, focus the anger where it belongs, and bring back the hotline now.

–Jessica Jones
College senior


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