I knew that college was going to change me, but I hadn't expected this change to come so soon. After only a couple of weeks as a freshman, I can tell that the next four years are going to be scarily life-changing if my time so far is any indication of what is to come. I've already been to my fair share of college parties; the booze, the sweaty frat boys, and the one awkward freshman who happened to be passed out on the floor. But it was a Saturday night, at one of these exact parties, that I met two people who just happened to change my life.
After being stuck in a tiny room with two hundred sweaty college students for an hour, I desperately needed a bit of fresh air. I made my way outside and sat on a bench, watching two guys aggressively arguing with each other on the opposite side of the road. Being a curious/nosy person myself, I naturally got up from where I was sitting and went to see what the fuss was about. I really do not know why these two guys felt that they could confide in me, but they did, and when they did, I was left speechless (something that doesn't happen too often)…
Finding out that these two guys were arguing over a girl was normal, something you hear everyday. But learning that this girl was, a victim of sexual assault, was something else.
I was shocked. Were these two guys really telling me, some stranger who casually walked over and poked her nose in their business, that their friend had been raped? I remained silent. Coming from a conservative Arab country, rape wasn't a typical topic of conversation. Sexual assault wasn't discussed openly or freely.
I was overcome by a wave of emotion that left me silent. The guys went on. I came to learn that the victim was one of their best friends. She was raped two weeks ago. She chose to take a semester abroad and leave the country, because she couldn't face her attacker. Her attacker was someone she knew, someone she trusted, someone she called a friend. She hadn't reported it; she was too afraid of what would happen if she did. So, she just left.
Hearing all of this, I couldn't help but ask myself, why were they talking about this now? What were they arguing about exactly? What made them leave a party, go out in the middle of the night, and start fighting?
Then, they dropped the bomb: the girl's attacker was at the party. The rapist was physically standing inside the room I was just in. This struck me hard. Would he assault another girl today? Did he already do it? Why was he allowed to continue his life normally, while the girl was left traumatized to the extent that she had to leave the country? I was left feeling stunned and confused, as a wave of unanswerable questions flooded through my heart.
They dropped another bomb: they were both themselves also victims of sexual assault. They had been raped. They had been assaulted. They were also too afraid to report it, but wished they had. And now, with an opportunity to do something they couldn't do before, they asked me: should we report it?
But then it hit me, why hadn't they reported it already? Why had they waited two weeks to begin to think about speaking up on behalf of their friend, who has been left voiceless, abused and attacked?
It was only when I learned that the attacker was a popular, white, frat boy that I found the answers to my questions. White privilege prevails once again.
This cycle must end. The victim left silent but her attacker lives freely. Her voice isn't heard but his laughter echoes in the party. Her life stopped still at a devastating moment in time, but he moves on as if nothing happened. Why? Because he is a rich, white, college student who will never be held accountable for his actions as long as everyone remains silent in the face of injustice.
This attacker should not be an exception; rape is rape. We need to stop the Brock Turners of this world. Voice the voiceless, for silence in the face of injustice, is the greatest injustice of all. This is what I realized now, but hoped I knew before.
I cannot possibly thank the two guys I met enough. I offer my deepest and most sincere gratitude to you both for opening up my mind and heart. Thank you for opening up to me, for letting me see the pain in your eyes and for giving me a moment that will never be forgotten in a lifetime. You have changed me in ways I cannot describe and I can only hope that you sought justice for your friend and that one day, you will find justice for yourselves.
To all those who have witnessed or been victims of sexual assault, you are not alone. We all stand with you.