Reflections

When I initially wrote my post about sexual assault and rape culture at BYU, I was really hesitant to share my post with the rest of the world. I’m generally not afraid to express my opinion, but this is a very sensitive topic and I hate people reading my writing. This was a late night post and I mainly wanted to get my thoughts down on paper, so it was not as well organized or edited as most of the rest of my writing. My blog has also become a journal of sorts and is rather personal. Still, I felt that this is not something that I could simply write and then just abandon for whoever happens to chance upon it. I took a brave leap of faith and shared the link to both Facebook and Twitter.

Despite my initial hesitation, I am now beyond grateful that I took the time to write this and share it with the world. The reception of my post have been overwhelmingly positive. Multiple friends have reached out to me to express their gratitude and one was even brave enough to open up to me about some things that have been happening to her. That’s really all I wanted. To raise awareness and to stop terrible things form happening to good people. If you ever wonder whether or not you should share something to the world, I invite you to ask yourself, is there even the remotest possibility that my words could help anyone, anyone at all? If the answer is yes, then go for it. If I had known how many people this would help, I would have written it years ago. If you are passionate about something, take the chance, seize the day, and write.

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Sexual Assault, Rape Culture, & BYU

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Anyone who knows me personally know that I have very strong opinions. Some I try to avoid discussing due to their controversial nature. However, this is something that I have been meaning to write about for quite a while. Recent events have made it an even more pressing issue.

As I was casually scrolling through Facebook, I came across this link.

While I don’t agree with everything this article says, I remember hearing about this incident in one of the wards in my stake and the problems it caused. I feel like we have this idea that BYU is a perfect place and that nothing bad ever happens here. But everyone and every place has their secrets.

I’ve always been wary of men and for some strange reason I’ve yet to determine, I’ve always had trust issues. There was never any particular incident, never any deep, dark moment in my past that inspired this. It’s just the way things have always been. When I was little, I liked to think that the world was all rainbows and sunshine and butterflies. I knew that wasn’t really the case, but I liked to believe that it was so. While I wouldn’t consider myself an optimist (I actually hate those people who are eternally cheerful. That can’t be healthy.), I always try to look for the good in everything and everyone, even when it’s not there. That seems a bit weird given my trust issues, but I promise that it works. Like my friend Brandon always said, I put up the appearance of being a very open person. I am kind and friendly to everyone and I share a lot of things, but they are very selective things. I give just enough to make people think I trust them, when I actually have so much more hidden inside.

Anyhow, growing up I didn’t have very many experiences with boys. I was never that girl who wanted a boyfriend and all of my guy friends had tons of other girl friends and they all moved around a lot, so I was never that close to any of them. I went on a grand total of three dates in high school, partially due to my late birthday and early graduation and partially due to the aforementioned lack of guy friends. I didn’t care at all about the lack of the male gender in my life, but looking back now, I think I should have, simply because it meant that all of my experiences with boys came from the stories of my friends.

It’s really interesting how much can change in a few short years, or months, or weeks, or even days. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve had many friends. I’ve watched them grow from cute, toothless little kids to awkward, gangly teenagers, to mature adults ready to take on the world. However, underneath all of that joy lies a darker side. The more people I’ve gotten to know, the more I’ve realized just how much we all carry. Everyone has baggage of some sort. Trials are necessary to help us learn and grow, but there are some things that no one should ever have to endure. At this point, every single girl I’ve ever had a deep conversation with, with the exception of my best friend Andrea, who has been on like three dates (I love you girly!), has had a bad experience with boys. I’m not talking about the time someone got dumped or cheated on or ignored, not to demean those things because they are certainly difficult. I’m talking about the fact that every one, every single girl who has opened up to me about her life, has been sexually assaulted, abused, raped or something along those lines. I’m not from a big city or anything like that. I grew up in a small town of roughly 60,000 people. Just like BYU, my hometown is the last place you would expect things like this to happen, and yet they did.

I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist. I do believe that there are a few things that need to change in today’s society, like equal wages and some stereotypes and such, but I am fairly conservative and I do not like the title feminist. Some claim that it refers to people furthering the equality of both genders, but I have to ask, if feminism is the push to equalize both genders, than why is it named after women? Shouldn’t it be a gender neutral term? This is why I refuse to identify as a feminist.

Despite this, I am very passionate about the thing our society has dubbed “rape culture.” I have seen far too much of what it does to people to be anything but passionate.

I know that rape culture exists at BYU & elsewhere:

Because when I am not told to dress modestly for myself and for God, but instead to avoid distracting boys.

Because I have friends who insist that I bring them along on dates with new people because you can never tell who has bad intentions.

Because I know girls who won’t fall asleep in front of boys for fear of what might be done to them while they sleep.

Because some people don’t realize that no means no.

Because I’m sick of 3 am texts asking “if I want to cuddle.”

Because multiple roommates and friends felt that it was necessary to come up with a safe code word for anytime anyone went anywhere with boys.

Because when someone ended up in a situation where a code word was actually necessary, they questioned whether or not they should actually use it out of fear that they were overreacting.

Because a triple date in the library of all places should be safe.

Because way too many girls never reported the things that happened to them because of fear of what their attacker would do.

Because when people actually did report incidents, nothing was done.

Because sometimes bishops and stake presidents think that a mission will prevent a boy from ever doing something like that, even if he’s already done it a million times.

Because even after incidents had been reported, the same people continued to do those same things to other girls.

Because the parents of one of my closest friends didn’t believe her story and later told her that she was “asking for it.”

Because girls are “supposed to enjoy attention from men.”

Because I feel the need to tell multiple people when and where I am going anytime I leave my apartment.

Because my roommate still has nightmares about when she was raped.

Because adults tell girls that they should feel complimented by whistles and cat calls.

Because some girls don’t feel valued because they have never been whistled at.

Because rape hill is still a thing.

Because agreeing to go on a date does not mean agreeing to make out or be groped or anything beyond a date.

Because I didn’t want to go outside after moving into my new apartment because of all of the groups of boys hanging around.

Because my friends feel the need to have pepper spray on their key chains.

Because I feel the need to walk through parking lots with my keys laced between my fingers.

Because BYU teaches a defense class for women instead of teaching boys not to attack women.

Because people always tell me that I should have loads of boys chasing me because of my looks, but not a one ever says that I should have boys dating me for my brain or personality or ambition.

Because I feel the need to always have my phone easily accessible and fully charged just in case.

Because girls feel like because they said yes once, they can never say no.

Because yelling fire or bomb has been proven to be more effective than yelling rape.

Because I feel the need to walk as fast as possible past groups of boys I don’t know.

Because girls are still told that if they dress immodestly, they are asking for it.

Because there are signs on campus with statistics about sexual assault.

Because sometimes the places and people that should be the safest aren’t.

Because sometimes when I go on dates I feel the need to lie about when I need to be home and who’s expecting me.

Because not saying no does not mean saying yes.

Because I am tired of seeing my friends get hurt repeatedly in situations where they should have been safe.

Because I am tired of people telling me how to act or dress instead of telling boys how to respect women.

Because I want to go on walks in the middle of the night and early morning runs and long hikes by myself without fear.

Because I am tired of seeing people who have done horrifying things get away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Because one in five college women will be sexually assaulted before they graduate.

I am sick and tired of all of these things. BYU may be a much safer place than most schools, but that doesn’t mean that things don’t still happen here. I am tired of people treating the symptoms and not the actual problem. How long will it take for people to acknowledge the truth and to do something about it? Because I never, ever want to hear about another girl who has ever been made to feel unsafe by anyone, whether here on BYU campus, or anywhere else in the world.

If anyone needs to talk about absolutely anything, I am always here. If I can make one person feel better or prevent even one person from feeling the way so many of my friends have, then it will all have been worth it.

The Still of the Silence

I have discovered that inspiration comes better when we distance ourselves from people, and our problems, and everything really.

I found the answers to my problems in the still of the mountains.

And I found myself.

And, finally, I found healing in the peace that only nature can provide.

“The human spirit needs places that have not been rearranged by the hand of man.”

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College = Work?

Everyone always told me about how busy I would be in college and how much work it was, which is surprising, because I feel like I have loads of free time. As soon as I finish my homework, there isn’t a whole lot to do. At home, there are always things that need to be done. There are bushes to trim and weeds to pull and goats to work with. If I really wanted to, I could probably find enough work at just my house to keep me busy for the next year. Here, there is only so much I can clean in my apartment once my homework’s done. I know my life will get busier later on, but I wonder if people no longer have the same concept of work.

Growing up, I mucked out stalls every Saturday before 4-H, and, after I returned, I was expected to help mow the lawn and finish my chores. There were things to be planted and pruned and painted. My parents could always find something for me to do. I knew that my other friends might not have had as many chores as me, but I didn’t imagine that their definition of hard work would be so much different than mine. Yes, college is hard, and yes it involves work, but compared to my life at home, this is nothing. If people really think that college is that much work, then I worry about the work ethic of this country. In the meantime though, I should probably stop complaining and go find something to keep me busy.

If Only We Were Born 100 Years Ago

I was going to write something like this eventually, but now I might not because this sums it up so perfectly.

Cowpuncher's Wife

There is a strong longing deep inside a cowboy for how things used to be. The ways of that time seem so simple, not any bit of what they have been made into today. The country is nearly unrecognizable from what it was in that day, it has been filled with fences, telephone poles, wind turbines, oil rigs, paved roads… The list is endless. I look around and try to imagine a day before any of that was scattered across the country. The phrase “If only we were born 100 years ago” never fails to come to mind.

The people of that time were different, a cowboy’s name actually meant something to ’em. The legacy of cowboys is lived through those who have known nothing else. Few understand that a person who owns a horse, or looks the part cannot own the title of a cowboy. It’s a way of…

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Flowers & Seasons

I don’t measure the time in days or weeks, but rather in flowers and the height of crops in fields and temperature at night and the length between sunrise and sunset. I never realized that I did this. It’s another habit that I picked up over the years. Even when I spent less time in the backyard as I grew up, I still saw the progression of the flowers and watched corn fields and wheat grow from little sprouts to tall, waving stalks that reached over my head.

I knew spring had begun when the daffodils started to bloom. They were followed by the tulips that saw the end of the winter frosts. This is when we pruned the flowering fruit trees and started burning brush and branches. The roses sent up new shoots and, before long, it was time for the irises and the lilacs to bloom. The rhubarb needed flowers clipped off then and dad rototilled and we planted the garden. Soon the strawberries bloomed, the raspberries started coming, and we planted petunias and geraniums in the pots on the back patio. I watched out the window as the roses, poppies, and primroses bloomed.

Before long though, the mums were up and blooming in gorgeous autumn colors like red and orange and yellow. Soon after this, the frosts began. I remember many a late night spent frantically covering pumpkin vines and hoping that they would survive the frost. They generally did until the really hard frosts hit. At that point, we would bring all of the squash and pumpkins into the garage in preparation for the coming holidays. Autumn leaves were raked into the garden patch and the yard was readied for winter. The next summer, when the first green spikes of daffodils poked their way up through the snow, we knew that winter was over and the whole cycle was about to start over again.

I knew that flowers obviously bloomed at different times in different places, but I didn’t realize that the hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips would all be blooming at the same time and that the lilacs would bloom in spring. In Idaho, the lilacs don’t grace us with their blossoms until summer. It’s amazing what you pick up on without realizing.
0404 GCSPhotography by Mark A. Philbrick

Homesickness

Tomorrow is the first day of a new semester. Last semester, I was overjoyed to finally be on my own and to pursue my dreams. This semester, my confidence is a little shaken. When I began my first semester at BYU, it was a bit of an experiment. I was barely seventeen, straight out of high school, and completely clueless about college. I knew that this semester could go any way I wanted, and I wanted it to go well. It certainly started off well. I received the highest grade in the class on my first paper, Calculus was a breeze thanks to my amazing high school teacher, and every day was filled with hours upon hours of free time to do as I pleased. Life seemed better than it had ever been. Unfortunately, about halfway through the semester, things took a turn for the worse.

For starters, I had never in my life experienced homesickness. I had spent weeks at various camps and activities, as well as on my aunt’s in-laws’ farm in eastern Washington. I had never had a very good relationship with my family, although we get along better now that I’m at college. So I never missed them much. All of my days spent away from home were packed with things to do and I hardly had a spare moment to myself. I always knew that I would be going home eventually and that each camp would be over in a week or so. Then I moved to college.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Utah. I love the mountains, and I absolutely adore the red rocks in the south. I’ve never cared much for the culture though. I was born in Utah and we moved not too long after my first birthday. Since then, we’ve been down to Utah for a variety of trips to shop, attend summer camps, and visit family. I always knew that I’d be going to BYU someday, but that didn’t change the fact that Utah had always felt more like a vacation destination than a place of permanent residency.

The first bout of homesickness hit in mid-February. Classes were staring to get harder and all of my friends’ does were starting to kids back home. I had a Boer doe, Layla, who was expecting my first ever kid, and I was extremely anxious for her to kid. She had a beautiful doeling, who, despite her parents’ traditional coloring, came out marked as a paint. I was planning on going home in two weeks to see her, but those two weeks felt like months. I finally made it home to see my baby, but I was sad that I had missed her birth. Unlike my other goats, who scream when they see me, this little doe had no clue who I was and wanted nothing to do with me. I was sad, but I knew that she would eventually warm up to me.takuandlayla

I headed back to Provo, and that next week, I was hit with the first of many trials. Every week it felt like there was something new. Somehow, I made it through the month of March, but April only served to bring more hardship, starting with the very first day of the month. It was April Fool’s Day and one of my good friends had just gotten out of the hospital after losing part of his finger in a horse related accident. After everything I had gone through, I desperately hoped he was joking, but every word was the truth. It continued to go downhill from there. The one good things in a sea of bad was my roommates. I had been blessed with an apartment full of five of the most caring, loving girls. In particular, my roommate Katie was a huge source of strength and support. We were both struggling with similar things, and our hardships really brought us together. She may actually be the best thing that I got out of this semester.

Somehow, I made it through finals and the death of my beloved cockatiel, Chipper. After an exhausting night of moving into my new apartment, I set off for Idaho with my cousin. The weekend flew by. It was packed with 4-H meetings, paperwork, and making time to see my friends and family. As I stood outside the barn after my 4-H meeting, I wished that there were a way for me to bottle that feeling, the still and the calm of a warm summer day out in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_20150425_093125976[1]As I pulled out of the gravel patch we called a parking lot, I mulled over the words my 4-H leader had said. “You are always welcome here.” It was meant as a comforting reminder, but it almost felt like the end of an era. I had spent the last eight years here. Every week I looked forward to Saturday when I could escape the monotony of my life and breathe in the deep scent of horses and hay fields. It smelled like freedom. I had shed many drops of blood, sweat, and tears there. It was the place where I had learned some of my most important lessons. It was the place that I formed life long bonds, the place where I felt inescapable loss, and the place where I grew stronger and stronger as I faced fear after fear. This time last year, I was trying to understand the deaths of my 4-H club president and the horse who had taught me to ride. The barn became a painful reminder of what I had lost, but it soon became a beacon of hope as I pushed myself harder than I ever had before. The barn was woven through my past like threads in a tapestry, and there was no way I could ever lose those memories. Yet, somehow, last week felt different.

The whole reason that I’m at college right now is because of a crazy decision I made last year to graduate early. I knew that it would mean giving up some things, but until recently, I didn’t realize just how much I would have to leave behind. Yesterday, a neighbor and good friend of mine asked if I wanted to move my goats to the pasture in her front yard. I realized that I now had access to at least three different pastures. If I had been a junior in high school like I was supposed to, then that offer could have given me the opportunity to expand my herd, add some dairy goats, and eventually, maybe even a horse.

Last summer, when I learned to rope, my teacher offered to let me use one of his horses and go rodeo with his daughter. As I clicked through pictures of their district’s first high school rodeo last night, I realized that could have been me. I could be out there, right now, roping calves and tying goats and running barrels and queening, just like I had always dreamed. I know that graduating early was the right choice for me and every day I move closer to my goal of becoming a vet, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that. Growing up, I was always a serious child. I spent my life working hard and fighting for what I wanted. In my spare time, I took online classes and researched majors and vet schools. People always told me that I needed to spend more time being a kid, but I never listened. Now, I often wish that I had. I thought that I was ready for college, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to leave it all behind.hsrodeo0

I gave up so many opportunities that I may never have again. I know that I made the right choice, but it’s been really hard for me to cut ties and focus solely on school. I thought that I was ready for college, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to leave it all behind. I did really well the first month here. It was after that, when all of the trials hit, that my faith began to falter. At home, I have so many ways to escape. I can lock myself in my room or pace my backyard or drive out to the barn or collapse in a pasture. Here, I don’t have a car or any connections. I’m basically stuck. Where before, I could hug a horse or weed the garden, now I don’t even have the luxury of a quiet walk down the street. I wouldn’t mind the hustle and bustle of the city that much if I had a way to escape, a way to be alone with my thoughts in the still of nature. Though I faced worse trials last year, the sheer inability to go to a safe place made this year so much harder.

Thanks to this past semester at college, I know what homesickness is now. It’s more than just a desire to be home, among familiar faces and surroundings. Homesickness for me is the whisper of the wind as it weaves through fence posts, the whir of a crop duster swooping overhead, the dust billowing up from a tractor plowing a field. Homesickness is wanting to be in a town, to live in a place where there are hayfields and pastures full of cows in the middle of town, a place where people bring horse trailers to Home Depot and Walmart is filled with people wearing camo, a place where you see an old man in a cowboy hat driving a Cadillac, a place where people have gun racks in their pickups and garages full of mounted deer. I miss living somewhere where multiple teachers and students are gone on the first day of hunting season, somewhere people ride dirt bikes and drive RVs to school. I miss being related to just about everyone in the next two towns and boots being worn everywhere with everything.

Homesickness is craving the ability to go for a run and to not see a single person. Jokes about potatoes and trips to the dairy for huckleberry ice cream. Homesickness is missing people who actually know what huckleberries are. Also people who don’t compliment your boots and then exclaim that they want a pair for country dancing. Plus people in your classes who can draw an accurate picture of a cowboy, because they’ve not only met multiple cowboys, but they have a rancher somewhere in their family. People who wear camo to class. People who are beyond proud of their Grand Champion sweatshirts and cutting belt buckles. People who live for the fair, regardless of whether they’ve ever shown an animal. People who spend their weekends four wheeling and shooting. These are my people. I knew the culture of Utah was different, but I didn’t think that a four hour drive would change things to the point where I no longer felt at home.

I could pack up and move to anywhere in Idaho, even Boise, and I would feel more at home than I do here in Provo. I knew Idaho was unique, but I didn’t realize that we lived in our own little world. In all my years of traveling this country, I never realized just how unique our crazy state was. We’re an entire state full of people who have farming and ranching in our blood, regardless of whether or not we currently work in agriculture. I love that, I live for that, and I never ever want to live anywhere else. Unfortunately, there’s this whole school thing.

Screenshot_2015-04-27-17-19-21[1]I’ve learned from last semester and I plan on making myself as busy as possible this semester to keep my mind off of home. It will be hard because at home there is always something that needs to be done, and here I can be done with everything I need to do by three in the afternoon, but somehow I’ll manage. Staying busy should help a lot. But I know that there will always be days when I look out the window at the construction or when I walk through crowds of people on my way to class and I crave the breeze gently rustling through the trees or even the fierce Idaho winds threatening to tear things from their roots. I just need to focus on the end goal. The harder I work now, and the more things I give up, the better my life will be in the future. In the end, all of this sacrifice will be worth it. I just need to hold on to that hope for the future and have faith in Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for me.