Add into the normal November craziness the devastating wildfires burning in Western NC and SC. It's busy. We're watching as the blazes exhaust the fire crews from across the state and country who have come in to help. We're talking with fearful neighbors who are anxiously watching the fire line creep closer to their homes. As we send crews to those areas, we tentatively make our plans for coverage.
Then comes the release.
"Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis will be available today at 11 a.m. at the Campus Police station on the Winthrop campus to talk about a reported sexual assault.
Here a few details -
On 11-17-2016, Winthrop University Police Department was notified of a sexual assault that occurred on campus October 29th at 9:30 pm. A student female victim , while in the area behind Bancroft by Margaret Nance and Owens Hall, was looking for a lost item in the grass when she stumbled. At that time an Unknown subject approached the victim and pinned her on the ground sexually assaulted her and then fled the scene on foot.
At this time there is no further information on the assailant."
I feel sick. I'm instantly rendered numb.
It's been a few months since that pit in my stomach resurfaced. Perhaps that in itself a stroke of good luck. Its part of why I've not written a post in 2 months. It's not necessarily that I haven't had things to say, it's that I don't really consider this blog to be about me. Sure, through this blog I've shared very personal and intimate thoughts and fears about what happened to me and the path I'm now walking. And while working in words, and putting them here - in digital black and white - has certainly been cathartic in many ways, I've always believed it wasn't really about me. It was about a larger conversation that is happening. It's about a larger conversation that needs to continue happening - now more than ever.
A young woman at Winthrop is alleging that she was sexually assaulted, forced to perform oral sex, after she stumbled after trying to walk away from a stranger while looking for an item in the grass.
Let that sink in for just one minute. I can't even last a minute without feeling tears well up and my stomach twist into knots.
How many times have I, have you, dropped something in the grass. Perhaps your hands were overflowing with stuff and something slipped. Have you ever tripped? I sure have. More times than I care to admit publicly.
I am so proud of this young woman. She has stepped out of the darkness and has come forward. I pray for her healing, and for justice. She should NEVER receive condemnation for the choices she made to process her attack before coming forward. None of us are standing in her shoes.
Instead, let's shift our focus.
What can we do to prevent these crimes from ever happening. What do we need to do to teach men not to sexually assault or rape. How do we combat this sense of entitlement that pervades some men to the point where they think they can force themselves on a woman and either use her body for their pleasure without her consent. How do we teach young men and boys to value themselves? How do we teach them to value the women in their communities?
I'm thankful for the men in my life, my friends and colleagues, who represent goodness. They are men of character, and they do not stand for this type of behavior. It is because of them, in part, that I'm encouraged that with time and effort we can work to solve the problem of rape culture in our society. That we can empower men to respect women, and women to stand up with and for each other.
Hopefully one day, there will be less reasons to go numb, and fewer survivors joining our ranks.