I was asked to submit an open letter as part of a media campaign being scheduled by Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (http://www.iowacasa.org/) for Sexual Assault Awareness Month which is observed in April. Here is my submission:
I write this letter for a college roommate who was afraid to ride her bicycle past the football players’ dorm on our campus because of the harassing comments and remarks that would be tossed her way. I write this letter because my response at the time was to think, “If you insist on wearing a skirt when you ride your bike, you can count on men hollering at you.”
I write this letter for a fifteen year-old woman who came to me because she didn’t want to exchange oral sex for friendship anymore, and she was looking for a way out. I write this letter because, at the time, I had no idea that fifteen-year-olds were under that kind of pressure, and I was unprepared to help her.
I write this letter for my small, bird-frail friend who claimed that Julia Child saved her life because she learned how to cook by watching Julia’s show on PBS. I write this letter for my friend whose pastor told her she must try to do better as a wife so that her husband wouldn’t hurt her anymore.
I write this letter for a nation in which women do not have equal representation in government. I write this letter for a nation which allows male elected leaders whose last biology class was in 1965 to set the tone of conversation in matters pertaining to my physiology, anatomy and psychological make-up.
I write this letter for a world in which people can be put in prison for life for having a romantic relationship with a person of the same gender, while juries in this country continue to acquit people who pulled triggers and ended lives without actually demonstrating any kind of threat beyond their own fear.
It is time for us to change, to admit our priorities are mixed up: when a university president can say that sexual assault is “human nature” and thinks that sounds sane; when physical and verbal violence is offered to young men and women, and our only response is to shake our heads and claim those kinds of behavior are acceptable as long as they happen inside “the locker room;” when our response to radio personalities who equate birth control with promiscuous sexual activity is to give them the benefit of the doubt and keep listening, but our response to our next door neighbor who was raped is to ask whether or not she had been drinking and shut the door.
At this time, more people are being bought and sold than at any other time in human history, mostly to satisfy the sexual urges and relational longing of other people. It is time for honest conversations about sex and the character of healthy and life-giving relationships. It is time that sexual assault and domestic violence stop being part of our everyday experience. It is time for us to stop blaming female bodies for our collective inability to exercise self-control, and it is time for us to shine a light into the broken, unlovely reaches of our own hearts where the urge to violence, alienation, cruelty, and fear are born.
So, I am speaking up, and I hope you will to. I hope you will get informed and spread the word. I hope you will get involved in your local community to gather stories, to share burdens, to confront evils, and to name and own a future where our daughters and our sons don’t have to walk down the streets in fear.