On Tuesday night, I made a bowl of oatmeal for a friend. He was starving, so I brought him to my room and microwaved some Quaker (not as good as stove-top, but it holds up). We crashed onto my bed and I recorded videos for Snapchat in which we discussed our abnormal love for oatmeal. We joked about how this was the perfect snack. Some people pray; we buy oats.
Despite the giddiness of our interactions, we were somber. We were both shaken, though frankly unsurprised, by the Association of American Universities’ campus sexual climate survey results that were released on Monday. Once we descended from our oatmeal high, we talked about how scared we felt.
When I read President Salovey’s email about the results, I had to lie down. After a particularly rough weekend that marked three years since a dear friend’s murder (yes, you read that right), the last thing I needed was a reminder of other violence and trauma. While my friend’s murder can be classified as an anomaly, I can’t file away sexual violence as easily. More people experience sexual violence and it’s discussed more often.
People are harassed and assaulted in myriad ways that do not always feature an anonymous, drunken figure in an alleyway. Drunk and sober people commit and experience sexual violence.
As we continue to process the results of the survey and what they say about our campus, I think we need to be mindful of how this place is experienced by differently bodied people. Ultimately, regardless of certain voices that question the believability of an anonymous survey, a great portion of the student body participated, and there was very little incentive to lie.
Women are not safe here.
I do not mean to suggest that women are safe in some other, magical campus where violence is nonexistent. Even women’s colleges have incidents of sexual violence, and harassment and violence among same-sex partners and queer people is a real problem. We live in a world that is unsafe for women, and the reality is that Yale is a part of it.
The survey’s results indicated that people who identify as a gender other than cisgender male or female are assaulted at a rate of 60 percent. While there are far fewer non-cis people on this campus than cis people, this suggests that certain bodies are at greater risk of attack than others. Throughout our world, trans and queer people are murdered and traumatized at horrifying rates. As though this needs to be said, this is not okay.
I recognize that every human being can and will experience pain. Nobody, not the wealthy or the white, is safe from violence in this world. All people who experience trauma should feel validated. Yet, some bodies are at a greater risk of pain. Some people are more likely to feel heard and supported.
When I was harassed and assaulted during my sophomore year, I didn’t understand what happened. I just knew that I was scared, and I felt unsafe, and I knew that a lot of people would doubt or question me. It took me months before I could tell the whole story. When I finally did, I didn’t feel relieved. I felt lost and ashamed.
When we’re children, we are taught by our parents. Don’t accept candy from strangers or visit a white van at the end of a parking lot. We learn to protect our bodies, but as hard as we may try to stay safe, we can still get hurt. When we are hurt, we tend to blame ourselves.
It doesn’t matter if I was honest about what I wanted, or if other boys had been respectful. One night, someone decided that how I felt didn’t matter.
Before the survey, my reality was real. It still is now. I still survived an experience of violence, and that won’t stop being true.
As I sat in the JE courtyard finishing this column, I was amazed by how supported I felt. I was amazed by my friends and mentors, by the people who heard me and believed me and made me feel important. I implore you to understand that yes: Some people will abandon you. Some people will be mean. Some people will be dismissive. But some people will hold you and toast you bagels. Some people will sit with you on a bed with a bowl of oatmeal.
I am here. I survived. And we believe you.
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .