Sexual assault is a tricky topic to talk about. It’s a topic that many people feel too uncomfortable to address in the first place. When they do decide to talk about it, they merely keep it at a surface level. Rape is uncomfortable and terrifying, and quite frankly I wish I didn’t have to talk about it either. But I do.
This isn’t because I’m a genius who’s done psychological research about the issue. I don’t have facts to tell you that you cannot find elsewhere. My experiences, unfortunately, are not even particularly unique.
But I am another number. I am one more person who has experienced the trauma of rape in college. I have seen what I believe are the worst things the world has to offer. I know what it’s like to be silenced. I have felt the sting of invalidating comments. And I have lived with overpowering wounds that hide behind big smiles and perfectly matching outfits.
Among those terrible things I have been given, I have also been given strength. I have discovered my power to open doors even when other ones have been so aggressively slammed in my face. I can be the one-millionth victim to try to bring awareness to the issue, and damn it if that doesn’t make even just ONE person stop to hear my words. I might not be able to change the world on my own. I know that as hard as I try, I cannot singlehandedly stop rape from happening, and from happening right here. But if I can touch just one life, if I can push just the first domino of the set – then all of the pain and vulnerability that has come with sharing my story is worth it. It is so worth it.
You know when you’re in math class and your teacher will repeat the same thing six times but then finally the seventh time it finally makes sense? It’s like it just wasn’t clicking and then all of a sudden he said it in a way that resonated with you. I guess what I’m getting at is: I know my writing isn’t perfect. Maybe I’m too bold sometimes and maybe you don’t like how light heartedly I can write about such a serious topic. But maybe my column was the seventh time you heard that math problem. And maybe, just maybe, this time you got it.
Although I’m sad that my column is coming to close, I’m blessed to have been given the opportunity to say what I did – to push the boundaries and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same. I guess the last thing I’d like to say is this: rape is never going to stop if we ignore it, shove it under a rug and pretend like it’s not that big of a deal. When we are divided, we are small. But when we are together, our words echo in harmony. Our words are like waves with explosions of sound at impact. They are important. They can drown monsters. And so in the words of Barack Obama, from the quote that hangs in my room and shines light on me every single day, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Liker her bluntness? Contact Maddy Pettit at firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.