Nearly 22 years ago, I placed my cherubic newborn baby daughter in the arms of a mother who had lost her own child to a brutal murderer years before.
I offered my child's life to this mother not as a replacement for her lost child, but as my daily commitment to remember the life that she, too, once cultivated and gifted this world. Her daughter, Jeanne Ann Clery, never had the chance to return her own gift of life to the world.
So, just a brief reminder: As our young girls head off to college for an exciting freshman year or even a returning year, take a moment to pause. As student blogger Jack Cahn so succinctly laid out, date rape and sexual assault are alive and well.
Unfortunately, rather than improving the statistics for decreasing these conditions, as a society we are nurturing their growth. In general, victims are being silenced by the mainstream accusatory anthem that if one's misfortune is voiced, she (or he) is "crying the victim syndrome." As a result, the platform for collaborative prevention of wrongs is effectively removed. Often, victims are ostracized when they stand up for their right to be heard and often directed toward psychotherapy.
We have become the culprits of silencing those whose anguish we choose not to hear.
These individuals who voice the need to rectify societal wrongs can be viewed as complainers suffering from a constant need for attention and gloating desires for martyrism. Instead, how about reviving the term "activists" and "activism" and believing that there are people who realize that telling their story could provide cognitive value for others to avoid similar situations? Or maybe victims are eliciting the opportunity for others to develop solutions that will mitigate and prevent more individuals from being victimized?
All I can say is: "Speak." Another freshman year is upon us. New lambs are entering college. Let shame not silence you. Even older women are experiencing brutal assaults and date rape at the hands of older, well-educated and mature men. So, lift your voices. Discuss your situations, your fears of walking home alone, who to walk with; firmly state your personal boundaries with your male "friends"; demand that pizza boxes are removed as props to doors that lead to your sleeping quarters. You have a right to be concerned for your life, because once you become a "victim," you may be shunned for the "complaints" you voice. Sometimes, it takes too much creative thinking on the part of others to see that you may be seeking a solution. You will, most likely, be directed towards isolated recovery. You will be seen as the one having the problem. Speak.
Had Jeanne Clery lived beyond her freshman year, she would have been 47 this November. Nevertheless, through founding Security on Campus, Inc. (now the Clery Center), her mother, brothers, friends and family committed their lives to making sure that "victims" could speak, lives could be saved and incidents of sexual assault mitigated.
For others, take a moment to listen to a "victim," because maybe mobilization for an active solution is all that is needed rather than an opportunity to silence another lamb.