Respect on Campus: Power of the Human Voice

The author of this piece requested that it be published anonymously as it contains sensitive and personal reflection

“What do you do on the weekends? Get hammered and go home with someone?” This disrespectful and generalized comment was made to me by a male student on the yellow couches of the first floor of the library, a public space for all to use.

Following that interaction, in another public space outside of campus, I was dancing and felt a male peer, whom I had briefly interacted with, place his hand on my hips. He did this without my consent and stated, “Let’s get out of here.”

These are two statements and interactions I have experienced this academic year as a first-year student and, as a result, I felt tremendously uncomfortable and unsafe on campus. Ironically, during the time when these events occurred was when I was just starting to feel comfortable on campus; however, the effect of these instances allowed me to feel extremely unsafe in populated and central areas on campus, such as the library.

I am a first year and I have been disrespected, and felt uncomfortable, by certain men five times on the HWS campus, and once on a campus where I was not a student. In total then, the number six represents the total number of instances on college campuses that I have felt uncomfortable, through non-consensual touch and invasion of personal space. However, in a universal aspect, the discomfort that I felt is also shared and experienced amongst numerous women who reside on domestic and international college campuses.  I would hope, in the future, HWS can cultivate a community where everyone feels safe and welcome.

A solution to ensure safeness, and eliminate feelings of extreme discomfort, is for men in general to consider the words and actions they commit, and always be respectful. However, to women on college campuses, now is your time to fight back and speak out about instances of  sexual misconduct. I did so by utilizing the Title IX office, and as a result I have never felt more empowered in my life to be a woman.  In addition, on a grander scale, thus far in 2018, movements such as Times Up, and women coming forth regarding sexual misconduct, reveals that 2018 is thus far a tremendously empowering year for women. Therefore, I ask that all the courageous, strong, beautiful women to utilize their voices.

Voices are powerful. Honesty is powerful. Vulnerability is powerful.   Sharing your experiences will be powerful. A community of women is powerful. Women, I am strongly encouraging all of you to speak out and utilize the wonderful Title IX resources we have on campus for every single instance where you have felt disrespect, uncomfortable, and unsafe. Whether the instance is a small non-consensual touch, offensive comment, or anything else, each event, story, and experience holds equal value and deserves to be heard, shared, and told.

The value of women speaking courageously, regarding uncomfortable sexual events, allows for the creation of a community of women. A community of women ensures that every woman is loved and cared for; it creates a fearless, intimidating force that is unstoppable. While I acknowledge that conversing about uncomfortable topics, such as sexual misconduct, can be difficult to have an open conversation about, profound knowledge of one’s self and society is rooted from having these blunt conversations. Additionally, having open conversations regarding discomfort on campus ensures that no women suffer in silence, that women’s voices are heard, represented, and unified.

To all the William Smith women – and to women in general – remember that you are intelligent, kind, beautiful, worthy, and fierce; never let men or anyone else tell you otherwise. As the motto of William Smith College: “Women Opening Doors for Women.” This allows for women to feel inspired and empowered from this quote, to use our voices, share our stories, and embrace the value of being a woman today and every day.

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