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.

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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