The author has requested anonymity for fear of harassment.
Content warning: this article contains references to sexual assault.
As a survivor, I’ve felt an awful ache this week as friend after friend has told me that they’re rushing. Each day has brought a new conversation, jaw clenched, heart racing and dropping and breaking, as I try to stand my ground and somehow demonstrate that survivors’ experiences, People of Color’s, queer folks’ — my experiences — and everyone who embodies any combination of these identities, are worth making the individual choice to opt out.
I ask myself if it’s reasonable to be upset, years of internalized rape culture reminding me to paint myself as overreactive. I hate that I care so much, self-blame again creeping in as I wish I could return to ignorant bliss. I hate that they care so little. I can no longer determine how to feel safe with these friends — friends I’ve disclosed to, friends I’ve been vulnerable with, friends who frat brothers have separated me from with no remorse, leaving me panicked and alone with nobody to walk home with. How can I know my friends won’t become the next doorkeepers, the ones that let assailants stay at the party? How can I know they won’t remain loyal to the institution they’ve paid to be a part of – one that promotes secrecy, protection and maintaining tradition and dominance on this campus?
Sexual violence is an inflicted trauma that can come with incredibly dangerous side effects. I think of my own assault, perpetrated by my best friend at the time, and how hopeless I feel three years later. I think of the foreignness I feel in my own body, the ways I wish I could crawl out of skin that no longer feels like my own. I think of how long I spent wishing I could escape a world that I no longer feel at home in. I think of how many survivors share the feeling that assault has ruined their life — it is “survival,” after all — and how many have been killed by a world and culture in which they can never feel safe.
So when I think of this university — one at which two in five undergraduate cis women will experience sexual violence before they graduate — I remember that I am not at home here, that a place with such academic achievement has an extremely violent underbelly. That I follow brave women like Chanel Miller and Leah Francis, and so many others, who fought fervently to even be listened to and who were denied justice. Between 1997 and 2014, only one rapist was expelled at Stanford, despite nine findings of responsibility for sexual assault during that same period. One. The exceptional part about sexual violence at this school is not that our frats are better at preventing it — it’s that our statistics are twice the average across universities in this country. Rape and frat culture are inextricably linked — some “friends” deny this reality, yet the few who acknowledged it expressed any desire or intention to change it.
So no, I’m not overreacting when I wince at your plans to pay for this “Sacred Siblinghood” and contributions to upholding rape culture at this university. I’m scared. Students at this university, students of color, gender-marginalized students, queer students and every intersection of these identities deserve to be safe. But more than that, we deserve to be able to exist on this campus with some sense of security.
I don’t care if frats control the social scene. I care about the safety and respect of everyone on this campus. I cannot sit idly by as privileged, unscathed students at this university churn out new survivors. Create lives that feel ruined. Rob us of that essential need to feel at home in the world.