Editor’s Note: Sexual violence at Carleton is terrifyingly present. We believe that this topic is not talked about nearly enough and we are proud to give the community a forum for sharing stories and reflections. We commend those with the strength to come forward with personal stories and those with the compassion to support them. We hope these pieces will inspire conversation and move Carleton towards a place where sexual violence is not tolerated in any shape or form. We want to thank everyone involved in the SpeakUp and we hope this community will continue to challenge itself and take care of each other. Most of all, we hope that if you, or anyone you love, has or is experiencing any kind of sexual violence that you won’t stay silent about it. Come forward, talk about it and, in doing so, protect yourself and protect the community. We owe each other that.
A Letter from Julie Thornton
As a relatively new member to Carleton (I started working here in January 2009), I am struck by just how much Carls do care about each other. Not just students and alumni – faculty and staff care a lot too! As members of the Carleton community, we take tremendous pride in supporting each other, and we value mutual respect. These values are outlined explicitly in our mission statement, community standards and statement on diversity. Thankfully, I could write an essay on how these values are being played out positively on our campus, as there are examples of this happening all the time…nice work!
However, in response to the Carleton Speak-Up that took place last week, and listening to the many heart-breaking, devastating and unbelievable stories, I believe some of my fellow Carls have much room to grow in order to be truly supportive of each other and truly show mutual respect. There is just too much sexual violence happening on this campus that is not being confronted. The students/faculty/staff who came forward with their stories at the Speak-Up are incredible. I believe there are many more Carls who can show more support of each other and show mutual respect, as our guiding documents suggest we should do. And with that, I believe we can do more to combat sexual violence!
There have been over 40 community concern forms submitted this year that are sexual in nature. The fact that these have been submitted demonstrates a certain level of care and support for the people involved in the community concern forms – whether that person is yourself or a friend who you filed a concern on behalf of. A willingness to step forward and express that an unwanted sexual experience happened to you, or to a friend, is a very brave thing.
But Carleton, we can do better. We can do more. We can get involved before a dangerous situation happens.
This isn’t a problem for someone else – this is an issue for you to deal with. You can intervene when you watch someone fondle your roommate’s breasts while she is totally out of it. You don’t have to allow that professor to flirt with your classmates and continue to make you and others feel totally uncomfortable. You can recognize that she’s wasted and can’t consent, and decide not to hook up with her. You can stop after he says no again and again.
We can better support each other and show mutual respect by not allowing our friends to drink so much alcohol that they end up way beyond their limit and have to be taken to the hospital. On average, there are about ten students each term that are transported to the hospital because of alcohol over-use: 18 shots in two hours, 6 cups of “punch” mixed up in a garbage can, 4 red cups of hard liquor in one hour. You sneak an extra bottle of booze into the punch bowl. You watch your friend stumble and drink more, and allow him to go home with that cute guy. You pour her the drink that pushes her well past her limits. You keep track of his shots by making tally marks on his arm. Is this really showing support for one another or being mutually respectful?
Alcohol over-use and sexual misconduct happen at Carleton. Many times, in fact, they happen in tandem. What is described above are real situations happening in some form here at Carleton and on other campuses on a regular basis. How have you been affected by sexual misconduct and alcohol over-use? What have you done as a Carl who cares to stop or alter these kinds of behaviors? Does it feel right to have these situations happening on our campus? Please help to end this kind of behavior at Carleton. Speak-up and let your voice be heard. What can we do next? Yes, it is great you are reporting. But we can come together to intervene. We can show our community that we take support, respect, and sexual misconduct prevention seriously. We can show survivors of sexual misconduct that we are not willing to let anything like that happen again, to anyone. Carls really do care…please show it!
Julie Thornton is an Associate Dean of Students
an anonymous submission
I hate that word.
It sends a shiver down my spine.
I hate how often it comes up. In class, in the lounge, in the dining hall, in movies and TV. No place is safe from that word.
Every time I hear it, I’m brought back to that apartment. I’m scared. I can smell him. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I see it in my mind like it was yesterday.
I have to tell myself that I’m safe. That he’s thousands of miles away. That there’s no way he could be here. But that doesn’t stop me from looking. Looking around, always looking over my shoulder, thinking I see him out of the corner of my eye. There is no place in the world I can escape him.
That word brings him into the inner sanctity of my mind. Every time I hear it.
I hate it when someone says rape in class. Somehow someone finds a way to talk about rape in every single literature class. Somehow every author has something to say about rape that needs to be discussed every damn class period.
I hate it. I hate it because I feel safe in class. It is supposed to be a safe place. It used to be my escape.
When someone says rape, I’m pulled back into that apartment, into that horrid sinking feeling. I lose minutes trying to calm myself down. I look around; see if anyone’s noticed that all the color’s drained from my face. My face then flushes from the embarrassment of being so affected by a stupid word.
But it happens every time.
I hate the word rape for what it does to me. I hate you for saying it. I hate the world for reminding me that I’m a survivor. For reminding me that I still hurt, that he still has this power over me.
I don’t want to hear that word anymore.I don’t want to hurt anymore. I don’t want to hate anymore.
Washing My Hands
Even now, when my thoughts drift to you
No, not to you
To what you were to me
I want to wash my hands
It is recommended that, when washing your hands, you hum or sing Happy Birthday or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
This ensures that your hands have been adequately cleaned
Neither of these songs seem appropriate
For washing away
Even now, when my thoughts drift to you
No, not to you
To what you are to me
I wonder if, when I want to wash my hands, you still have control over me
On the days that I think of things that way, I also think about plunging my hands into mud that is thick and filled with small sticks and rocks
The mud is cool
It gets stuck under my fingernails and begins to harden around my knuckles
But that would just feel dirty
As I feel when my thoughts drift to you
And to what you did to me
I just left the SpeakUp, but it was far from leaving me. I sat there in the cool spring grass and listened to horrors, to triumphs, to fury, and to love…but most of all, to truth; to reality. I felt a sharp pinch and looked down, realizing the candle I was holding had begun to drip on my hand. I winced, yet found myself stifling the emotion. Here I was, listening to stories of the utmost pain, of emotional scarring, and I had the nerve to think some hot wax was worth hurting over? But wait, no, this feeling was a luxury. That I have never known true pain is a luxury. That I am not dulled to the world because of my experiences is a luxury. That I can afford to feel without the fear of bringing up memories that leave me trembling and breathless at night is a luxury. My luxury….and I so I sat there and felt everything, let myself feel everything, knowing that not everyone had my luxury.
As I walked away that night, the wax dried in the warm spring air, and I peeled it off. The skin below was smooth and untouched. That was my luxury. Yet for so many others, no matter what justice is done, what therapy is sought, and what healing is reached, a survivor is always a survivor. That lasts forever. That is burnt in.
I walked back towards my dorm in a stupor, and saw students gathered in a circle practicing a capella songs. I saw another person jogging down the street, utterly absorbed in her music. From somewhere nearby, I heard the end of a conversation about grad school. And suddenly I didn’t know where I was. Was this Carleton? Are these my peers? I couldn’t even fathom the idea that there were people here, oblivious to this terrible reality.
I’ve never met a Carleton student who was in favor of sexual violence. I’ve never heard anyone on this campus say “she deserved it” or “she was asking for it.” But how many people are here today? How many people make this SpeakUp a priority? How many people pay attention during the New Student Week presentation? How many people still carry the “Not On Our Campus” pledge in their wallets? How is it possible to have such a reserved stance, such a carefree attitude; how can you take the middle ground when it comes to sexual violence?
It’s just a luxury, a luxury for someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. A luxury for someone who has never heard a friend speak from the deepest parts of their soul. A luxury for someone who has never held a stranger in their arms because a hug was the only consolation they could give. A luxury for someone who has never heard the strongest woman they know break down in tears. A luxury for someone who can freely roam the halls of any dorm without being reminded of what happened there. A luxury for someone who doesn’t have to put their back to a wall every time they sit down. A luxury for someone who doesn’t wake up every day and ask God what they did to deserve this. A luxury for someone who doesn’t understand that we are doing this to our friends and our peers, that we are doing this to each other in our own community. That we are doing this to ourselves… A luxury, a luxury for the only person who can afford to be so goddamn apathetic.
When something has the power to ruin lives, to crush dreams, the power to label someone – to permanently brand them a survivor, a victim. The power to take away the people we care about and love, the power to forever change someone’s future and keep them from having the luxuries we are all so blessed with….
And we have the luxury of ignoring this, and not doing everything in our power to stop sexual violence. Then I ask you, what sort of luxury is this?
Kaz Skubi is a fourth year student
Reflections from Jessica Mueller
When I was in college, at another small private liberal arts institution, I remember waking up to a phone call early in the morning. A good friend of mine was hysterical on the other end of the line. A young woman, our classmate, had been shot. I remember not being able to speak or ask any questions as my friend was explaining what happened. Our classmate, Maggie, was shot by her boyfriend the night before in one of the dorms, her boyfriend then shot himself. As I listened on the phone, all I could think about was how beautiful Maggie was. I had this image of her smiling and laughing in my head.
Long story short, evidence from the police investigation suggested that Maggie’s boyfriend had been physically and emotionally hurting her for a long time prior to the shooting. She had broken up with him and he had been trying to get her back – apologies, pleading and then begging, which eventually led to stalking and angry threats. Soon enough, he was in her dorm room with a shotgun. He shot her twice and then sat on her bed and shot himself.
Sexual and relationship violence became a topic of conversation for months on campus. Classes were canceled, support groups formed, crisis counselors were hired part time, and people came together to just talk. In the midst of all of these conversations and all of this healing and reflection, I remember thinking, how do you know? How do you know if you’re in danger? I had been dating the same guy on-and-off for close to a year at the time this happened and I knew it wasn’t necessarily a healthy situation. He was definitely verbally and emotionally abusive. We were in a constant state of “roller coaster” I like to call it. I was always apologizing, trying to convince my friends that he was a good guy. In our “up” stages, we were inseparable and all of my time was with him, about him and for him. In our “down” times, I was depressed, I didn’t sleep much, and was constantly trying to make-up ground with the friendships I’d neglected. Just when I’d gained enough self-esteem back and just when I finally started to feel good again, he’d call me or show up at my door. He’d wait for me after class or send me a long letter about how sorry he was and what a huge mistake he’d made in letting me go. I remember reasoning in my head: sure he cheated on me a few times, sure he’d put me down and tell me I wasn’t good enough for him, and sure he got a little too drunk at a few parties and pushed me or screamed at me a handful of times, but what guy doesn’t get a little too drunk here and there in college?
After Maggie died, I remember wondering, am I actually in an abusive relationship? I remember thinking, no way. I’m not going to get SHOT, and I thought, my boyfriend doesn’t actually hit me for crying out loud. For me at the time, this meant I was safe. This meant I was fine. Not being hit, and not fearing getting shot was my safety. So I stayed on my roller coaster. I couldn’t get off. I didn’t know how to get off. I felt stuck and scared and once my worth and value were caught up in him and whether or not he loved me that day or the next, I was lost. I didn’t know how to feel anymore. The only place I felt safe was on the roller coaster. When it was finally over, and I really can’t tell you when, why, or how it actually ended, I remember the first time I really laughed again. I laughed so hard that my throat, face and stomach ached. I fell to the ground because my legs weren’t even strong enough to cradle that amount of joy. It was the most amazing feeling. I’d forgotten what real joy felt like.
When I’m reminded of Maggie and when I think about her now, almost ten years later, I can remember the image I had of Maggie in my mind that morning of the phone call – beautiful, smiling and laughing.
I wish I had asked for help – real help, like one-on-one or group counseling. I thought I had to deal with these questions and feelings on my own.
I know that the roller coaster I was on wasn’t just about my boyfriend. I did have a lot to do with it and I wasn’t perfect, either. It may sound like I’m making excuses for him, but I’m really not. I had a very low self-esteem at that time in my life (although it didn’t appear that way to others) and I clung to that relationship because it was the only “relationship” I knew. I do think that my staying on the roller coaster wasn’t just about him, but much of it about me and my own inner struggles at the time.
I encourage young women (and young men for that matter) to really TALK about these issues. So many of us have struggled and do struggle with these types of issues. No one has to deal with this alone.
Jessica Mueller is a staff member