“We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing.” – Aly Raisman
This unwavering stance against abuse, abusers, and enablers has been the overarching theme on the Michigan State University (MSU) campus since Larry Nassar was convicted. Hundreds of survivors and allies, myself included, have been voicing their opinions via peaceful demonstrations outside of the Hannah Administration building on campus, social media, and direct contact with university administrators. They try to ease our outrage by doing the bare minimum of what should be required of them.
As a survivor of not only childhood sexual abuse, but of sexual assault at Michigan State, I strive to be actively involved in conversations about survivors and what exactly this university offers those who have faced crises at this university and before. Many students have filed sexual assault cases with the Office of Institutional Equity on campus. One friend in particular described to me her experience doing so. “I reported because I thought something would happen, but as it turns out nothing came of it,” Rebecca said. “Mostly it was a painful, traumatizing process. I can’t imagine anyone else going through this and then to realize that, more often than not, no one is punished, nothing happens.” 19,778 women attend Michigan State University. Based on the statistic, “one in five women will experience sexual assault” means that at LEAST 3956 female students at MSU are survivors. In the 2015 campus climate survey states that “of female survivors of nonconsensual penetration by physical force, 71.9 percent did not report the incident.”
Hear Melissa speak about forming a culture of everyday courage to protect future generations.
The reality of apathy toward sexual assault and Nassar abuse survivors, in particular, became glaringly obvious in recent news. John Engler, the interim president of MSU, was interviewed to announce the re-opening of the fund for Nassar survivors that was closed in July of 2018. “There are a lot of people who are touched by this. Survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight, in some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.” Once students found out what Engler said about survivors “enjoying” their time in the spotlight there was outrage.
It is clear that the administration, particularly the now ex-president and board of trustees, have never thought about the well–being of their students. Engler said in that same interview, “What’s interesting is about half of those who seek help have already been in treatment before they came to the university. I was blown away by that number. I just hadn’t thought about how many people might (have had) crises before coming to the university.” It is clear, after these remarks, that neither Engler nor the board of trustees understands the issues facing the people they are meant to be serving.
“The burden of ending sexual violence shouldn’t be on the shoulders of survivors and their willingness/ability to share a story that stirs empathy in people who don’t know how to love,” Tashmica Torok, founder and CEO of Firecracker Foundation*, said in a tweet. “It’s exhausting. It’s presumptuous. It is the privileged dining on the energy of the oppressed.” It takes courage to end sexual violence. Aly Raisman, since long before the Nassar trials, was a role model for me. As soon as I heard about her partnership with Darkness to Light, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to get more involved. I saw how Aly spoke up and assumed an active role in preventing any more abuse to occur within her community, so I knew I could too. It took courage for Aly to speak her truth, it took courage for me to then speak mine, and it will continue to take courage to stand up to abuse. As for me and my spartan community, we have found our courage and have proclaimed that #TIMESUPMSU.
*Firecracker Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Lansing, MI dedicated to honoring the bravery of children who have survived sexual trauma by building a community invested in the healing of their whole being.*