Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Violence Prevention Project Assistant Reflects on Go Big Read

Go Big Read seeks responses to this year's book from students, faculty, and staff. If you have something to share, contact gobigread@library.wisc.edu to learn more about guidelines and process. Thanks to Olivia Moore for responding from her perspective as Violence Prevention Project Assistant. 

*Trigger warning.*

In Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being,” many heartbreaking issues in young Naoko’s life are explored.  Nao, a 16 year-old schoolgirl living in Tokyo, documents her life in a diary.  After Japan’s
devastating earthquake and tsunami, a Japanese-American novelist named Ruth, finds a barnacle-encrusted freezer bag washed up on a beach off the coast of British Columbia.  Ruth opens the freezer bag to find Nao’s life inscribed in an old book, along with a watch and some letters. We are taken into Nao’s world as Ruth relives her life through the washed up diary.

In a few life-changing moments described in the diary, Nao experienced a sexual assault perpetrated by some of her classmates.  These classmates videotaped the assault and stole her underwear.  They then posted both online, seeing what the highest bid for her underwear would be.  Before Nao even had a chance to begin healing from her traumatizing sexual assault, she was forced to relive it over and over again in a public forum.

This story in the book displays something that is far too common in our society: re-victimization. This term refers to the experience of a survivor being victimized or traumatized after the original trauma.
Not all survivors of sexual assault experience re-victimization by watching how much their underwear is being auctioned off for, or by seeing how many views their sexual assault has gotten online.  However, almost all survivors do have to endure countless rape jokes, triggering images or scenes on TV and in movies, and degrading song lyrics on a daily basis.  Re-victimization can be experienced through the criminal justice system, friends, family, and social media. 

With the statistic currently at 1 in 4 women being sexually assaulted before they graduate college, many of us feel helpless and overwhelmed.  What can you, merely 1 in 42,820 students at UW-Madison, do to help end the epidemic of sexual assault?  The answer may sound simpler than you think: be a good person.  Most of us are not the perpetrators initially victimizing someone, but we can all do our part in ensuring survivors are not re-victimized.

Be conscious of what you say, post online, or laugh at. It matters. With statistics showing that sexual assault and dating violence affect countless women in our society, a survivor or a loved one of a survivor will most likely be negatively affected by what you post or say. If what you are about to say could be emotionally traumatizing to a survivor, either do not say it or include a trigger warning before you do.  Soon, this will come as second nature.  When other people see you not laughing at a harmful rape joke, or including a trigger warning before you post an article to Facebook, that makes a statement about what is and is not acceptable today.

It is also extremely helpful to know the resources that the campus and community provides.  If someone discloses to you, you will be prepared to help them find the resources that are best for them.

If you do encounter someone saying something hurtful, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion to them.  A famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr. states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  Will the confrontation be awkward at first? Maybe.  Will it be worth it? Definitely.

Help is available.  Click here  for a list of campus and community resources.  

Olivia Moore
Violence Prevention Project Assistant
EVOC: End Violence on Campus
University Health Services

Olivia is a junior at UW-Madison majoring in psychology, and getting certificates in entrepreneurship and criminal justice.  She has worked as the Violence Prevention Project Assistant at EVOC since her freshman year.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this piece, Olivia.

October 17, 2013 at 3:55 PM  

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