Monday night I attended Take Back the Night’s “1 in 4 / 1 in 8” forum about sexual assault. I am surprised I did not even know about the event until one of the representatives from the club came to hand out the t-shirts which some people in our class had ordered. There are people close to me who have been the victim of sexual assault, so I was interested to learn more about this terrible problem, and ways I could help in the fight to end it. As I walked from my dormitory to Knott Hall, I wondered why similar forums had not been held previously. Loyola prides itself on producing complete individuals through the Core, service and faith. However, this is such a serious problem that I find it utterly astonishing that it has not been addressed. I have attended many lectures and forums on race, but never any on gender issues or one addressing the incredibly disrespectful language used by boys at Loyola on a daily basis. Loyola’s faculty has sexual harassment training to prevent inappropriate behaviour – why shouldn’t we?
It was good to see so many students walking around today wearing the shirts sold by Take Back the Night bringing awareness to Loyola, but this notion in it of itself raised questions for me. First of all, is awareness even enough? If 25% of American women have been sexually assaulted, it seems this should be something about which all people are aware, and action should be taken. Additionally, at the forum, there were only about 8 men, and those present were not the kind of men who needed to be converted. The boys who really needed to hear the message tonight were I am sure relaxing comfortably in their dorms without a care in the world. One of the girls at the lecture brought up the idea of an AlcoholEDU-style program for students dealing with sexual assault. This is a pretty interesting idea and I hope someone brings it to the attention of the administration because I think it is one that should be taken seriously.
At the forum, the Take Back the Night group stated that most incidents of sexual assault begin with alcohol or a party. Ordinarily the two people barely know each other if at all, and that made me think of a theme in Jack Schaefer’s Shane: the allure of the stranger. From the first pages of the novel, the narrator and his family are in complete awe of this stranger who comes into their lives. However, that theme is essentially where the similarities between the event and the novel end. The character Shane seems to blow into this family’s life and helps to both unite them and bring about a better understanding of each other.
Shane exemplifies the quintessential Western hero. He is strong but subdued, although he is always willing to stand up for what is right. This also relates to the Take Back the Night forum, in that the group talked about standing up for those who are afraid to tell the truth. Shane wants to escape his violent past, and survivors of sexual assault want nothing more than to escape the memories of their attack. Shane illustrates the impact violence has on a person, and intimates that one can never really escape it. Shane and Joe travel in town where he has a confrontation with one of Fletcher’s men, Chris. Chris gets into Shane’s head, and his blood begins to boil. This results in a quintessentially western bar fight, demonstrating how difficult it is for someone to truly escape their past. Survivors of sexual assault must feel the same way: seeing the face of their attacker every night when they close their eyes or having constant flashbacks of their assault. The Take Back the Night forum really impassioned me to stand up for these women and men who have had to endure such a horrible act. I hope Loyola continues to recognize the group's work and promote sexual assault awareness on campus.