The Hunting Ground: A Must-See

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One in four. One in every four women will be a victim of sexual assault or rape by the end of her college career. I can barely wrap my mind around this staggering statistic. That is nearly one quarter of the female population. This means that if you have a sister, a cousin, a friend, a girl friend, an aunt, a godmother, a teacher, there is a twenty-five percent chance that she has been/will be a victim of sexual assault or rape.

This is an epidemic. An epidemic that we are FINALLY talking about. Just six years ago, when I started college in September of 2009, there were only 5 members (all girls) in the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) group at Emory. It was the first time in my life where I felt safe talking about my own experiences as a survivor. It took me years to come to terms with what happened to me, to finally stop blaming myself and to learn that my abuse did not define who I am as a person. By the end of my college career, I was president of ASAP, we had just under one thousand student body members and the number of people attending each of our events was mind boggling. I left college knowing that I had helped others and made Emory a better place than I had found it.

The topic of widespread sexual abuse, especially on college campuses, was never really broached in the mainstream media until very recently. I remember when my group had made posters with sexual assault statistics, (gathered from RAINN) written on them and we posted them in every building on campus. In retaliation, Emory had the janitors tear the signs down because they “didn’t want to scare potential students”. I went to a disciplinary hearing for my actions, but now, I think they would have called me a hero. Oh, how the tides have turned.

The Hunting Ground, which first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, is arguably the most important documentary that everyone, especially college-bound students, needs to watch. It is eye opening and heart wrenching. These brave men and women who disclose their stories are true heroes. Their strength to fight the pervasive victim-blaming society that we live in is refreshing and monumental. If you think that our society doesn’t blame the victim, then read the unbiased cases against Ben Roethlisberger, Darren Sharper, Bill Cosby and especially Jameis Winston. In each of these cases, the women were cast in negative light by the mainstream media, the women were portrayed as gold-diggers and their stories were not taken seriously, at least not at first.

The truth is that survivors have been systematically shamed by our society. Instead of asking, “Are you okay?” or “How can I help you?”, the first question usually is, “What were you wearing?”. It’s as if you were somehow asking for it. No. It should never be about your clothing or how much you had to drink. It should be that your body was violated and that the criminal justice system will bring your perpetrator to justice. As I used to tell people at Emory, “You could be running around butt-ass naked and it does not give someone else the right to touch you.”

Did you know that out of the reported rape cases, 98% of rapists will never see their day in court? Now please do not start thinking that I am a man-hater or that I think all men are rapists. No. First of all, I am married to a man, I enjoyed partying at his fraternity while I was in college and the majority of my friends happen to be male. What I believe is that it is a very small percentage of the male population that actually commits these heinous crimes, and they often do it more than once. Because of the low reporting numbers, rapists are able to get away with their crimes and feel free to do it again.

The Hunting Ground is amazing for allowing these men and women a platform to openly talk about what happened to them, to empower other survivors and actually prove that societal change can happen. This movie helps to shatter the notion that “Sexual assault doesn’t affect me”, because it actually does. This epidemic affects each of us, whether you’re aware or not, and it is now our time to take a stand for every survivor, to give a voice to every victim too ashamed or scared to come forward and to invoke change in our country so that every person is believed from the very start.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any comments/concerns or just need to talk to someone.

💋

Statistics Reported from RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network).  https://rainn.org/

Also watch videos on Project Unspoken, which I was a part of during my time at Emory                                                       https://www.youtube.com/user/ProjectUnspoken

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Sisterly Love

There no relationship quite like that of sisters. You can be punching, screaming, and pulling each other’s hair one minute and giggling on the floor the next. I have been extremely blessed to have not just one, but two, younger sisters who, despite our differences, I would give my life for. Before I get into the meat of my post, I do want to clarify that you don’t actually have to be blood-related to have that sister bond: you can be neighbors, best friends, cousins, sorority sisters, etc. The bond of sisters is like nothing else in the entire world.

les trois sœurs
les trois sœurs

With that being said, I want to do a shoutout to my littlest sister, Alexandra (aka: Lexie), who is a senior in high school and has just decided where she wants to attend college in the fall. This past year, I feel like our entire family has been holding our breath, waiting for these college acceptance letters and now, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. And I’m not going to lie, I felt like I was living vicariously through Lexie during this period of time because I had definitely repressed the memories of that intense anxiety and stress over the uncertainty of the future. When she was feeling down about a rejection letter, there I was feeling depressed and angry that they didn’t see her potential. Not only is she an AP/Honors student, but she created a service organization and she played FOOTBALL on the high school Varsity team – like HELLO?! How cool is that? I just couldn’t believe that any school failed to see how amazing she is.

Lexie was the kicker for the high school Varsity football team all four years.
Lexie was the kicker for the high school Varsity football team all four years.

Then, as I am doing more research on college acceptances I’m realizing that it honestly is a complete game of chance on whether or not you get in. It is extremely subjective and based on the luck of the draw depending on who actually looks at your application. Now I’m not bashing every admissions office, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a cloud of suspicion as to who gets in and who doesn’t.

Underneath that helmet was a girl!
Underneath that helmet was a girl!

Anyways, I am getting a little bit off topic. As the oldest of three girls, I was the one who had to “blaze the trail” and set an example. I remember getting to college and having zero idea of what I was supposed to do. I never really talked to anyone about what day to day life was supposed to be like. I remember that gut-wrenching feeling of being alone for the first time in my life, and I was absolutely petrified. But I have a pretty good feeling that my baby sister won’t really have that problem. I think the hardest part will be having to reign you in once you get the taste of freedom, to be honest.

Typical Lexie behavior.
Typical Lexie behavior.

In the end, what I want to express is how truly proud I am of you, Lexie. You are an incredibly sincere young woman, with a heart of gold and I know you will excel wherever you go.  Just remember to always keep an open mind, make friends with people with all sorts of backgrounds and stay true to yourself. Oh, and don’t skip class! 💋

My beautiful baby sister.
My beautiful baby sister.