Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell
The issue of sexual assault remains silent in our community and on college campuses
In honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I want to address don’t ask…don’t tell regarding sexual assault. Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature that occurs without consent from both individuals or under threat or coercion. Whether by an acquaintance or by a stranger, sexual assault can occur either forcibly and/or against a person's will, or when a person is incapable of giving consent. By law, sexual assault includes but is not limited to rape, forcible sodomy, forcible oral copulation, sexual assault with an object, sexual battery, forcible fondling (e.g., unwanted touching or kissing for purposes of sexual gratification), or threat of sexual assault. A person is legally incapable of giving consent if under 18 years of age, intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, developmentally disabled, or mentally or physically unable to do so.
I think the movement of violence against women was the first “Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell. We have been conditioned not to share our dirty laundry, not to talk about it and basically just get over it. However if we are going to use dirty laundry as an example, we did not put the stains on the laundry thus we have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s time to wash the laundry… no more secrets. When I shared my story of abuse, I had so many mixed opinions about sharing the story. I must admit that most were supportive however many felt it wasn’t appropriate especially for a professional businesswoman. Some said, “That is not what you do” however, I felt sharing my story was very much apart of how I could help other women. My questions to most of the naysayers were “Why does this mean so much to you and what are you hiding?” and “Does my story make you uncomfortable because of your own experience or lack of an experience with abuse?”
Most recently, a Yale junior Alexandra Brodsky and 16 current and former Yale students filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, describing a sexually hostile environment on campus. She acknowledges that the school officials aren’t culpable for incidents of sexual harassment or assault, they’re culpable because they haven’t responded appropriately which is also form of Don’t ask…Don’t tell. According to the Justice Department, 1 in 5 college women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape and every minute in the United States, 1.3 adult women are raped. The sad reality is with those statistics we still remain silent on the issue of abuse. I am sure everyone is not on board with Alexandra and others exposing the university’s inability to appropriately address violence on campus however I applaud their effort to give voice to this issue especially on a college campus. It is often the victim who drops out of school because of the way universities handle sexual misconduct. In fact, a survey conducted by Simon Toby of female students transferring into Brown University in the early 1990s revealed that one of the top reasons women may transfer colleges is because they've been sexually assaulted on their campus.
We can all do our part as women to help EmpowHer with love and support. Often giving her support and not judgment helps begin the healing process. Holding on to the secret of abuse is not helpful and can become harmful if not addressed. Remember you are not responsible for the dirty laundry so don’t accept it.
If you or someone you love have been a victim of abuse remember, you do not have to suffer in silence, you did not abuse yourself therefore do not become your own abuser by blaming yourself, seek medical attention immediately…help is just a phone call away.
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