Anyone who has ever met me for more than five minutes knows I pose the same threat as a soggy teddy bear; however, that isn’t how I look.
Standing at six-foot-five and built like a bear, I can easily appear as a threat, and I’ve been noticing an effect around USD. Whenever women notice me at night, they will often look nervously over their shoulders at me, walk faster or try to go somewhere safer. I wish they didn’t react that way, but it’s also completely logical.
Over the summer the country was mostly outraged by the court case of Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who got off with a light sentence following his rape trial. The unfortunate reality is that sexual assault remains a major problem on campuses around the country. Even when a jury reaches a verdict, a good swimming record can wipe the slate clean for a “five-minute mistake.” Maybe that’s part of the reason the Brock Turner case seemed to strike a nerve.
On paper, Turner seemed like a good person from a good family. It turns out he had the capability to do one of the most heinous acts a human can commit against a fellow human. If someone like that is capable of raping an intoxicated young woman in a public place, why shouldn’t a woman assume that the random hulking figure behind her late at night doesn’t also pose a threat? It makes me feel bad, but that really isn’t the point here.
We’ve made significant progress toward curtailing the effects of sexual assault on campuses. I have yet to hear of a campus that doesn’t have mandatory Title IX training. Greater understanding is constantly being spread about the necessity of consent. And thanks to the power of social media, people are adopting a culture that discourages victim blaming and supports outreach to survivors.
Our generation often receives a bad rep for being lazy or impatient. But I’d encourage anybody to point to a time when our country was better at helping survivors recover, advocate and punish offending parties. Bringing so much attention to the Brock Turner case in turn promotes awareness to sexual assault. According to NBC News, colleges around the country are implementing criminal penalties, bystander intervention and alcohol restrictions to prevent further assaults. Even with all of this praiseworthy work, that doesn’t mean we’re done.
Sexual assault and all of its ugly forms seem to be inevitable. As much as it hurts to admit, we may never occupy a world where anyone can feel safe everywhere. Instead of seeing this reality as one of doom and dread, I truly believe that things are trending toward the better.
While I would love to not be identified as a threat by people who don’t know me, I understand where that fear comes from. That fear is very real for a practical purpose. People should listen to that fear.
Even though this upsets me, my emotions are not as important as the safety and well-being of others. Stay safe, and if anyone, wherever you fall on the spectrum of human identities, needs someone to walk with so they can feel safe, I’m more than happy to escort you.