What We Should Really Be Talking About

Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is check my phone for any activity I may have missed during the night. It starts with text messages and always ends with emails. This morning I received two security alert emails I shouldn’t have had to receive. Both vaguely addressed incidents of sexual assault.

Last night, while out roaming the campus, I received a similar email. This means that in hardly more than a 24-hour period, three incidents have occurred, all regarding sexual assault on our campus. And this is not okay.

We are supposed to be different. We are supposed to be a safe place for everyone. We are home to a thousand different types of people. If any group or person among us is feeling unsafe because of the current climate, then something must be done. Brief exchanges with friends regarding rape culture on campus show this has always been a problem.

One good thing is that victims are now feeling galvanized to report it. Maybe it’s due to the emails or the gentle push of a friend. This is great, but not enough. For everyone who has ever been a victim of a similar situation, now is the time to have a voice. We will talk about this. We will talk about it loudly. We will cultivate a hostile environment toward rape culture. If there is a safe environment to be found anywhere in this country, it should be at Sarah Lawrence College.

The first problem is that the school feels it necessary to produce a very specific kind of image. In any place attempting a certain public reputation there are situations and problems that unfortunately get swept underneath the rug. Of course this makes a lot of sense. None of us want the school to be identified by negative connotations. We can all agree on this. But if it ever comes at the expense of knowledge, at the expense of a victim’s situation, or at the expense of rooting out the transgressor, it stops being an admirable or morally sound goal. Just this morning I learned that the overwhelming consensus on how the school deals with such situations points to a severe lack of gravity. Either the authorities pursuing the case don’t give it enough attention or not enough is being done to the person who has committed the crime itself. Zero-tolerance is what we want. Should anyone stoop to rape or assault in any situation, that person should be gone. There should be no question of retention rates or monetary loss. There should only be what is right.

An unfortunate byproduct of eradicating rape culture in any environment is the idea that it is solely up to the women to speak out against it. Sometimes they can’t or feel they shouldn’t. I want to explore this from a male perspective. A member of my family was a victim of a similar circumstance. I’ve never been angrier than on that day when I received the heartbreaking account over the phone. This is something I feel strongly about. I implore any men reading this to help put a stop to this type of conduct. If there are people at parties who are slipping into violent or belligerent episodes, if even an iota of danger can be sensed, step in. This is one step to a safer place. We have to take it upon our shoulders to call those potential criminals out. Not acting is just as bad as collusion. We can no longer be indifferent.

We are a family here. All of us are brothers and sisters. Families look out for and take care of each other. There’s nothing more felicitous than the idea that everyone on this campus lives to serve one another in any way they can. We should cultivate this kind of closeness on a daily basis.

But let’s go further than that. It’s time to get involved outside of any fortuitous circumstance. While we are still planning groups and events to support anyone who wants to speak out against rape culture, I ask that you contact either myself or Nachi Conde-Farley (my email is ckelly@gm.slc.edu) if you or anyone you know might be interested in getting involved. The first event will be a painting on the free-speech board with our view on rape: “No means no.” If we can be certain of any absolute, we should start with this one. After the painting, we will have a silent march to Westlands in support of all those who remain voiceless. We are you. We are Sarah Lawrence College and when one is hurt, we all are. Let’s pick each other up out of the mud.



Author’s Note: A portion of this article has been removed to honor the subjects and victims on campus.


Chris is a Junior but also old as sin. He writes in confined areas and blares CKY. When not writing, he's lamenting his hot room at the top of Dudley Lawrence. You'll never know if he's crying, because it's just sweat.


  • Reply September 22, 2013


    Chris this article is extremely well written and thank you for expressing concern and taking action. I think we need to explore the idea of what it means to consent to sex, though; it’s not just that “no means no” it’s also what is defined as a yes. “Yes means yes” or something that is a CLEAR agreement between two people I believe is a more proactive approach. However this does not dismiss that firm no does indeed mean no and that’s as good a place as any to start.

    • Reply September 27, 2013


      Hey Ellen,

      “Yes means Yes” is actually something that a lot of victims of sexual assault do not agree with. In some cases of sexual assault the victim may have been emotionally manipulated/physically coerced to say yes verbally, when they may not have initially consented. And “Yes means Yes” has recently been used by a lot of supposed male allies. It actually reduces our idea/concept of consent. “No means No” is something a lot of victims find empowering, and I think at the end of the day we need to think first and foremost what do victims of sexual assault want.

      • Reply September 27, 2013


        I agree that we must be thinking first and foremost about victims of sexual assault. I was not aware that “yes means yes” had those connotations, and I can see now how that could be flipped around in an awful twisted way. I apologize if I offended you or anyone else, that was not my intention. I do think that opening up a discussion about consent and educating people is the best thing we can do along with supporting those who have been attacked.

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