In high school, sexual assault was a foreign idea to me. I knew it existed and I knew that it was wrong, but being in my small town bubble, I never thought much of it.
Once I was accepted into college I was required to complete module upon module asking about my sexual activity, my drinking habits and if I truly understood what consent was. I found it annoying and something that was consuming hours of my time only to reaffirm information that I already knew, and that I assumed was common sense.
I was soon exposed to how little this information was seen as common sense among a lot of college kids, and a day into my freshman year of college I got my first sexual assault warning text. “A forcible sex offense-unknown has occurred at University Park” This was one of close to 50 texts that I would receive leading up to my junior year of college.
I received 10 over the course of syllabus week this year. 50 people, sexually assaulted, were now merely a text to me that I never even took a second glance at.
My freshman year I was intrigued with how many of these texts I would receive. I was being exposed to the harsh reality that was sexual assault in college. As the year went on, and the more and more text messages I’d receive, I started to become immune to them. I would look down and see that 5-digit number that I didn’t have saved and simply click the notification so it would go away. I never clicked the link that came with the text that would give me valuable information as to where the assault had happened or on the rare occasion an actual description of the perpetrator. I was degrading these victims to merely a text message, not recognizing the pain that they had to endure and chalked them up to just a statistic.
When I was receiving 2 or 3 of these text messages a day during syllabus week I was actually annoyed by the texts. Annoyed that they were interrupting my meaningless Twitter scrolling to let me know that one of my fellow classmates had now become a victim.
Sexual assault has become so prevalent in college life that a majority of us have become immune to it. Society sees it as an annoyance, an overreaction; and I have fallen victim to that.
Sure, when something as public as the Brock Turner case comes along I’ll curse his name, but then I don’t apply this same logic to the text messages that I receive almost on a weekly basis.
I will never forget the moment I looked down to another text message, and was overcome with the realization that I didn’t care. I was disgusted with my attitude, the attitude that I’ve had for years. I was living in an “ignorance is bliss” world. If I didn’t care about these texts, or try and find out more information about them, they weren’t really happening and everything was happy in my Happy Valley.
I was living in a world where it was “normal” for me to receive sexual assault texts every weekend. We all need to come to terms with the reality that is sexual assault, and the reality that these are not overreactions, they are not alcohol’s fault and that they are real, and only we can do something to change them.
From now on, whenever I hear the ding of my phone and realize that it is another alert text, I will take the time to read the report that comes along with it, and to pray that the victim is given strength in the situation that they are currently in, and I urge you all to do the same.