Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.
Like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and countless others who have experienced sexual assault, I stayed silent. When #MeToo started trending on social media over a year after my assault, I saw my friends making Facebook posts and tweets in solidarity with survivors. In fact, many of them were survivors themselves, courageous enough to share their own stories or to use the hashtag #MeToo to imply a shared experience.
Still, I said nothing. I was too scared to even acknowledge the reality of what had happened to me, here, at Tufts, as a first-year in the upstairs bedroom of an on-campus house one crisp fall Saturday. I did not want to make it a big deal, even though it was. I tried as hard as I could to push away the memories, even when the perpetrator repeatedly tried to contact me after the incident. I only told close friends and tried my best to deal with this trauma on my own, not because I had any doubt in my mind about what had occurred, but because I’ve seen how viciously our society treats women who come forward. I had nothing to gain; I just wanted peace of mind. But after all that has happened in the past week, I can no longer stay silent.
As I write this, the Senate is considering whether or not it will delay the vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a position on the highest court in our land. The entire hearing has been exhausting to follow, and I’m sure that by the time this column goes to print, there will be new developments in the story. I have been obsessively checking the news and refreshing Twitter to stay informed. I haven’t been able to focus on much else, and I know that many of my peers feel the same way.
Sadly, I have also noticed a worrying complacency among some of my friends. Somewhat understandably, they are disillusioned with a system in which hearings are so politicized and our representatives are more concerned with virtue-signaling than action. But we are not powerless by any means. There is strength in numbers, and we need to continue our resistance, even when giving up seems like the easier option.
Every decent man has a place in the #MeToo movement and a responsibility to take concrete action to support it. Simply saying you respect women and not being a perpetrator of sexual assault is not enough. It is on you to back up your words with action and actively fight against the culture and institutions that prioritize the desires of men over the comfort and safety of women. It is your responsibility to support the women in your life by listening to their words and amplifying their voices, even if what they are saying makes you uncomfortable. It is your role to hold the men in your fraternities, sports teams and social circles accountable for their treatment of women, too. No one is attacking you just for being a man, but no one will reward you simply for doing no harm. Sexual assault is not just a women’s issue. It happens here at Tufts, and regardless of your identity, you should be absolutely outraged about it and ready to fight like hell against those who perpetrate, aid and abet it.
I’m telling my story because there are countless individuals whom you know personally who have experienced sexual assault, even if they have not shared their own stories with you. I have chosen to remain anonymous because our society still stigmatizes and blames victims. I hope that we can work to change this culture, but it cannot and will not happen unless men step up and play an active role — even when it involves sacrifice — just as many survivors have already done.