Til it happens to you…

Annie Forrest, Theta Zeta, University of Virginia
Annie Forrest, Theta Zeta, University of Virginia

TW: sexual violence; suicide; mental health

Based on the title of the post, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this — straight to Lady Gaga’s earth-shattering performance of “Til it Happens to You” at the Oscar’s this past weekend. If you missed it, here’s the video of one of the most powerful acts of solidarity for survivors of sexual violence.

Let me give you (and myself) a moment to get a Kleenex and dry our eyes before this post continues.

Lady Gaga wrote the song for the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which showcases stories of survivors on college campuses across the country. I first saw the film almost a year ago at my own university, which is used as an example of an institution that expels students for cheating, lying and stealing but never once for sexual violence.

It’s a reminder to all of us that there are unimaginable difficulties for students during their collegiate years and that we also have an opportunity to step out of comfort zones, commit to uniting in solidarity and work to make college campuses safer for those around us.

Especially as sorority women, the reality is that there are multiple survivors of sexual violence, suicide, battles with mental health, etc. in our own chapters–many of whom will feel unable to expose their fights because of stereotype and stigma. If it hasn’t happened to you, Lady Gaga is right to say that you don’t know how it feels, but you can know how to fight alongside your sisters and fellow sorority and fraternity members.

Here are a few examples of how to do just that:

  • Look up campus resources with the person in need of them instead of just suggesting they do it themselves
  • Offer to escort a sister to her first meeting with a dean, mental health specialist, Title IX investigator, police officer, women’s center professional, etc.
  • Watch “The Hunting Ground” and do research as to how your own university handles sexual misconduct
  • Use an informal chapter to have a guest speaker come in and show everyone what resources are available on campus and in the community
  • Volunteer at a crisis center/hotline
  • Sponsor or co-sponsor a “Take Back the Night,” Suicide Awareness Week or mental health event as a way to break down stereotypes
  • Listen when someone discloses to you – always say “I believe you” and “It’s not your fault”

Most importantly, be kind. College is a hard enough time without dealing with added trauma or mental health issues, but if you’re fortunate enough to have sisters like the ones I had during my collegiate years, you will be able to share how it feels when it happens to you and be surrounded by support.

 

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