Assault survivors deserve tact, integrity

Last week, I witnessed our greek community’s march against sexual assault and sexual violence. I went because I care. I went because I am a victim of sexual assault at Rutgers. I went because I know people who are also victims. But what I saw was not what I had hoped for.

I arrived on time to ensure that I did not miss anything important. I arrived to smiling. I arrived to "#WhatGreekIsAbout" or whatever hashtags they were using. I arrived to a sign-in sheet so that greek organizations could receive credit for attending –– and by credit, I mean that their organization would receive a fine if they did not send at least two members.

I arrived to this event hoping for a dialogue about something that matters to me. Instead, I was repeatedly asked why I was there. I was singled out because I was not in greek life. If this event was really for sexual assault awareness, then it should be open to everyone. Everyone should be encouraged to attend.

Then the music began. The smiling continued, the socializing continued. I nervously stood there watching people take photos with their hashtags and upload them to Facebook.

This was an event intended to improve the image of greek life. The media has painted an inaccurate portrayal of greek life, and has stereotyped greek organizations as partaking in rape, racism and drugging students. The pillars of greek life are leadership, philanthropy, academics/scholarship and brother/sisterhood, some of which I would have liked to see more of at this event. However, it’s important to keep in mind the overarching message: a few people do not define a population.

Nonetheless, this event reminded me of “#NotAllMen.” This was simply a “#NotAllFrats.” They turned a serious issue into a chance to receive positive attention: a chance to prove that they were different, a chance some of them turned into a joke.

Their march was supposed to be a silent march, representing the silence that many students must adopt after their assault. It wasn’t silent. There was laughing and talk of sports. I spent the entirety of the march considering what had happened to me and reanalyzing my own views on sexual assault, all the while holding in a seething desire to tell them to shut up.

At the end of the march, one of the students from a participating sorority shared her moving story on her own sexual assault at Rutgers. She broke her silence. She put into perspective why we were marching. It was a fitting ending, even though the march itself was a less-than-fitting precursor to learning about her trauma.

I wanted to share mine. To quiet the crowd and tell them again that it does happen, but it shouldn’t happen. I wish I could tell the world that I was molested and violated at their University, but with what I had seen that night, I realized that I could not, at least not there. I’ve held onto my silence with people like them in mind. I’ve kept quiet because I am not a joke. It’s time people know.

Mary Pat Reiter is a School of Engineering junior majoring in biomedical engineering.

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