Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Letter: Community support is still needed for sexual assault survivors

<p>A woman wears a teal ribbon during a Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 13, 2019 at the Hannah Administration Building. </p>

A woman wears a teal ribbon during a Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 13, 2019 at the Hannah Administration Building.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

By Debbie Miszak

Miszak is a journalism and comparative cultures and politics sophomore. She also worked at The State News during the fall 2017 semester.

The sun is shining on the Red Cedar. Students are back to whizzing down sidewalks on their bikes. They’re celebrating the success of Spartan basketball. April’s shaping up to be a nice month for MSU.

April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At Michigan State, we can’t forget what that means. I’ve been a student here for two years. I’ve seen the damage that has been done by Larry Nassar, William Strampel, Kathie Klages, and everyone else involved in MSU’s cover-up. 

I also feel the momentum to help survivors of sexual assault beginning to slip away. This is not a normal end of the semester. The Attorney General is investigating MSU, and students still don’t know who the next university president is.

This doesn’t disappear because the weather is warm and the team is winning.

In addition to the visible damage associated with Larry Nassar, there are issues on campus that permeate the student body. When I — and others — started school, we were warned by peers not to walk on the Rape Trail (River Trail) after dark. In spite of never meeting someone who was assaulted there, the fear of assault was instilled immediately. 

Even after everything MSU has been through, and its efforts to improve sexual assault prevention, I still meet people who belittle the experiences of women. I recently spoke with a peer who said it’s not a privilege to be able to walk alone at night without fear. They argued the real privilege is that women are informed of the dangers they face. This student said it’s healthy for women to fear how late they are out and to adjust what they are wearing as a way to stay safe. They said it’s good that women are reminded regularly of the dangerous world they live in “in case they forget.”

What this student failed to see is that it’s impossible for a woman on a college campus to forget who she is, and what dangers she faces. 

I agree that being able to walk alone at night is not a privilege. However, we disagree on our reasoning. It’s our right as students to be able to do so without fear. It’s not a privilege to pay $25,000 a year to live and learn in a place where I have a 25% chance of being sexually assaulted, as reported in a 2015 survey of female undergraduate students at MSU.

If I were threatened by a crime other than sexual assault, I wouldn’t be told my safety is a privilege. 
I certainly wouldn’t be told my fear is a privilege. It’s our right to be safe from sexual assault, and it’s our right to know that the university will take our experiences seriously. 

This is It’s On Us Week, and Take Back the Night, an annual event featuring activities and an evening march aimed at ending sexual assault and domestic violence will take place on April 18 at the MSU Museum. Student and community support at these events is more important than ever.

I believe Spartans can end the normalization of sexual assault through continued solidarity and positive momentum.

I hope Spartans will.

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