In the Fall of 2012 during my freshman year at Howard University, I was introduced to the grave effects of sexual assault by my friend, Alice.* Alice and I were sitting in the cafeteria laughing during DJ night with a group of friends. As hits from the 90s spun in the background, Alice whispered to me: “I think something’s happened, I don’t know how to explain it.”
That *something* is a story I’ve also heard unfold 6 times since my talk with Alice freshman year. A range of close friends and peers alike have disclosed their experiences. If you’re keeping up with me, that means I know of 7 women that have been sexually assaulted while matriculating at Howard University.
This phenomenon isn’t unique to the halls of The Mecca. In fact, one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college. Many of these women, like Alice, couldn’t put their experience to words. Some of the women I’ve mentioned don’t consider their experience to be sexual assault. In one situation, for example, a peer recalls needing to be drunk in order to consent to intercourse with her significant other.
Tuesday morning Joe Biden gave a speech on sexual violence and reinforced his commitment to ending rape on campus.
“If you let [sexual violence] pass [because] you want to be ‘one of the guys,’ you become an accomplice,” Biden said to the crowd at the United State of Women Summit.
Being ‘one of the guys’ was never an option for me. However, I believe it’s on me to do everything in my power to help stop campus rapes and sexual violence.
When Alice asked me what to do, I wasn’t equipped with the knowledge or resources to help her. Because of this, Alice’s mental, emotional and physical health suffered.
I continuously think about Alice and the many other stories I’ve heard over the past four years. I am my sister’s’ keeper and this duty empowers me to speak up and help empower others. The series I am doing for A Tribe Called News is dedicated to them and the many unknown survivors of sexual violence.
It’s on Us.