Ever since I was eight years old, the one thing I knew I look forward to was going to college. I was eight years old when I began working my ass off to ensure I would get the most out of my education and get into a college I want to go to. And finally, here I am, nine years later, beginning to apply to universities I can only dream of attending, and something has changed.
I am scared to go to college.
I don't get homesick. I don't miss my house or my town or even my family sometimes. I've never had separation anxiety-- in fact, I cannot wait to see what kind of person I will grow into when I am not weighed down by the constant presence of my parents. So, why, do you ask, am I scared to go to college?
Because I am a girl.
You hear about it, occasionally. A blimp on the morning news; a small picture in the bottom corner of a newspaper. "Student raped," it reads. Sometimes, it turns into a big deal. Even then, the story is gone and forgotten by the evening news. It should be a big deal, but it can't be. How can it be a big deal when one in five female college students are sexually assaulted?
One in five.
How is it that we have come to live in a society where any random woman has likely been sexually harassed? And where every single woman lives in the fear that she is next? As a young girl, I was told not to dress provocatively because that would make me a target for predators. In school, I was told I could not wear the shorts I wanted or a shirt that revealed a bra strap because it could be distracting for the boys.
This system that we have developed, a system to help keep girls safe and prevent unwanted attention, is the reason why there is a feeling of guilt among victims. A prepubescent girls shouldn’t have to wear shirts with two inch thick straps because it may be distracting to the boys for her not to. No group of people should have to sacrifice their comfort and confidence to appease the wants of another. Time is taken out of a girl's school day to point out to her that her outfit could be detrimental to a boy's education. (See the irony?)
Not only is this unfair to young girls, but it teaches boys that they do not have to control what they think of a girl, and more specifically, her body. That they are allowed to have and act upon any thought they think because if a girl is dressed a certain way, it is her fault if she is given attention because of it. It is exactly this mentality that develops in males as they turn from elementary boys to high school teenagers to college students, making free choices out in the world. All of this time, they have been under the impression that whatever they think, whatever they want, is okay, simply because they have never been told otherwise.
When I'm researching colleges, I shouldn't have to be concerned about the safety and the party scene and what both of those could mean to my well being. My guy friends certainly don’t pay attention to that.
But I am a girl.
I don't mean to say that being the victim of a rape is exclusive to women, because it isn't. But a bulk of college rape victims are, in fact, of the female gender. And most of the perpetrators are, in fact, males.
Nonetheless, rape is rape.
Now, I have a question for you, society: Why are we allowing rapists to portray themselves as victims? How can people even begin to believe that 'trying to fit in' justifies, in any way, the violation of another person's body and values and peace of mind?
How can we forget that the real victims are the victims?
That is the problem I have found with many of the controversial rape cases that have made it as far as mass media: there is so much controversy over the state of the rapist that the victim of the crime is dehumanized. When the talk is only about the rapist and what they did or have done, or what they do or don't deserve, their character is called into question. Defenders of the rapist argue that they only did it once and they really are a good person. They don't deserve this punishment.
And soon people forget that there was even another human involved in the initial crime.
Because no matter how often it happened, or how good of a person the rapist was before, all that matters is that through their actions, they have violated another human in a way that can never be undone. The rapist doesn't think they deserve a lifetime in prison? The victim doesn't deserve a lifetime plagued by the nightmares that have been inflicted upon her. Of being too scared to walk down a street alone. Of never being able to sleep or focus in class because of the constant anxiety coursing through her veins.
And this haunts me. Right now, these are just stories. I don’t know anyone who has been raped. Or maybe I do. Many victims are scared to speak up about their experience out fear that nobody will believe them or even blame them for instigating the crime. And for all I know, as soon as I walk on a campus, I could be next.
No, I am not going to let this keep me from going to college. But as someone who is already paranoid, I know that I will never be able to completely enjoy myself knowing that the odds are not at all in my favor.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.