COLUMN: It can happen anywhere

Rob Le Cates

Will Padgett is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2912 [email protected].

Will Padgett, Columnist

I think that living in a small town my entire life has spoiled my way of thinking. You hear people talk about crime rates, murders, kidnappings, shootings, and, if you are like me, you think that those things happen only in OTHER places; never where you live.

The topic at hand for this issue of The News is Sexual Assault Awareness, something I know is so prevalent for a lot of people.

Much like my column on the strike, I would like to start off by saying that I myself have no personal experience or context regarding Sexual Assault. That alone makes it difficult for me to write about, but you also have to factor in that I am also a man writing about it.

That is not to say that men are not sexually assaulted (they absolutely are) but rather that it is so much more common that women are the victims. The stats total out to about 91% of the victims being women and 9% being men (these stats do not account for non-binary folks or those who do not identify as those genders).

The bottom line is that women have to exist with this sort of perpetual guard whereas men do not really. Speaking from experience, I personally have never had to walk with my keys ready to be used as a weapon or felt afraid when walking by myself at night. For some men, it is easy to not see that reality.

So, being both a man and someone who has always lived in a small town, my thinking is doubly clouded when it comes to recognizing that sexual assault CAN and DOES happen anywhere. From my experience, men pull this off simply by not thinking about it. I have never EVER, not even once, worried about someone putting something in my drink or being alone with someone of the opposite sex.

That, coupled with the fact that you never really hear about violent crimes in a small town like Charleston, causes me to engage in this truly awful mindset of thinking that, even for a split second, that things like sexual assault do not happen here.

The harsh reality always comes back into focus, though, because of course it happens here. It happens EVERYWHERE. It happens everywhere shitty, awful people exist and shitty, awful people are like cockroaches: they are everywhere.

Sexual assault is a universal problem that makes people feel small, worthless, dirty, and a myriad of other terrible feelings that I can only begin to imagine. It is one of the worst things that can happen to a person.

My goal here is not to reiterate things you likely already know, like sexual assault being absolutely and indisputably terrible. My goal here is to make you realize that, no matter how little you hear about crimes like sexual assault, I promise you that they are happening.

They happen in alleys, behind closed doors, in dark and scary places and in broad daylight. We live in a world that has proven itself irrefutably unsafe for women.

When people, like Brock Turner, can get away with SIX MONTHS and only serving THREE for genuinely and truly raping someone, you know there exists this awful precedent for slapping rapists and sexual assaulters on the wrist.

How in the hell is anyone supposed to feel safe in a world where the worst of us can get away with so little after the kind of damage rape and sexual assault wreaks? When someone you know, or even someone you do not tells you about an experience they have had with sexual assault I beg you to listen.

Not this half-assed listening our generation seems to love doing, but honest and wholehearted listening. You have no earthly clue how difficult it is to talk about and you owe your fellow human being the basic decency of being a good listener.

Will Padgett is an English graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.