Facts don’t disappear when we ignore them

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women reports being raped during her lifetime. For college students, the numbers are even more disturbing. During their college years, one in five women reports being sexually assaulted, and an estimated 90 percent of college rapes go unreported.
 
 
One in five. Have we become immune to that statistic now that we’ve heard it enough? Have we decided that just because it is no longer the “hot” issue on campus, we can suddenly ignore it? 
 
 
Last year, I was excited when the “No Gray” campaign launched. For the first time at the University of Minnesota, it seemed like those affected by sexual assault and rape had a stage on which to share their stories without fear of shame or any pressure to brush it under the rug. 
 
 
But then, last April came and went, and people started to get shy or uncomfortable when talking about sexual assault. Now we hardly even mention it. We approach the issue like it’s solved, like there’s no more work to be done.
 
 
Ignoring sexual violence communicates to survivors that what happened to them was not a “big deal,” that they should just “get over it” and that they are not worthy of continued action and protest against this epidemic. 
 
 
Equally if not more damaging is that ignoring the issue promotes sexual violence, telling those who act in sexually violent ways that there are not serious repercussions for their actions. 
 
 
Meanwhile, those who can afford to ignore the issue do so. But one in five women continues to be affected by this daily. These women are your classmates, teammates, sisters, cousins, professors and mothers. Sexual violence is not just a women’s issue — it is a societal issue. 
 
 
In 2004, a Boynton Health Center study said 600 women and 100 men on our campus report being assaulted every year. This issue is not any closer to being solved today than it was last year. We just have more awareness. 
 
 
We took one step forward, but it seems we are content to stand here, aware but inactive. 
 
 
We need to keep the conversation open. We cannot ignore sexual assault because it is better to campaign on some other issue. Rather, we need to continue the progress we have made on sexual assault while expanding our focus to include other issues affecting students. One in five. We do not get to stop talking about it until that number is zero.
 
 
Isabel Lott
University student