When I was admitted to CMC I was obsessed with finding out everything I could before coming on campus.  I spent enormous amounts of time trolling College Prowler and creeping on College Confidential for the inside scoop.  In my research I asked a couple current 5C students from my high school what the 5C stereotypes were.  Of course, they told me the same over-used, vaguely offensive stereotypes:  Scripps girls are super hot, Pitzer girls are hippies, Pomona girls are hipsters.  “Well,” I said, “what’s the stereotype about CMC girls?” The student I was talking to laughed, “the stereotype is that we don’t exist.”

In February of last year Shannon Miller ’16 wrote a Forum piece entitled “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It” in response to a Huffington Post opinion-editorial article by a Scripps student praising her all-girls school education.  While my mini-feed buzzed with reposts and statuses lauding the piece, something about the article rubbed me the wrong way.  While both original articles were about leadership in higher education, the argument on social media became a polarized argument about whether women should embrace or ignore their gender in order to succeed.

CMC is no less filled with talented, passionate, driven women than any other 5C, the difference is that we pride ourselves on succeeding in spite of being women, not because of it.  A lot of backlash against Elisabeth Pfeiffer SC 15’s original Huffington Post article I saw from CMC students was the perception that choosing to go to an all-girls college was a cop out, that in order to be prepared for the “real world” we must face pragmatism (which, in the context of Miller’s article, apparently meant competition with men) and overcome it.  Surely we need to make a name for ourselves based on our merits and talents, not our gender, but I believe our obsession with proving ourselves capable despite our gender has gone so far that occasionally we are not able to support each other as much as we should.

Don’t get me wrong, I came to CMC for a reason.  Sure I fell in love with the weather (despite my albino-esque appearance) but it was the people who most drew me here. You all, my fellow classmates, are so dedicated to success, moving forward, learning, improving yourselves that you swept me right along into being a much better person than I ever could have been alone.  We’re all in a rush to get out there into that fabled real world we hear so much about, but it’s my opinion that we should slow down and stop glossing over the unsavory issues in our rush to move up in life and succeed.  Because, plain and simple, CMC has a problem with sexual assault and we are not addressing it because it isn’t easy to raise your voice alone.

We are not alone in facing this issue; virtually every institution of higher learning is struggling with the same challenges.  I worry that as CMC men and women we have a tendency to ignore the issue, to sweep unpleasant problems under the rug because they are only setbacks, barriers in the path to our success.  But the truth is that we need to support each other.  No one should suffer sexual abuse, no one should be alone in overcoming the experience.   We have been silent too long.

After my sexual assault, besides the wonderful support of some fantastic friends, I felt alone in my experience.  The truth is, we don’t talk about sexual assault enough, and survivors often believe they are an isolated incident and unsupported. However when I published a blog post about my experiences I was overwhelmed by an outpouring of support and love from both men and women on campus.  The more I shared, the more I learned that I am not alone. So many others have gone through a similar experience or have counseled a friend who has suffered a sexual assault.  Though sexual assault and violence are in no way exclusive to women and many, many men are victims, I believe that our school’s tendency to ignore gender and traditionally gendered issues speaks to our difficulty tackling problems we aren’t even comfortable acknowledging.

I urge you to support each other, to stand up for men and women whose issues aren’t addressed because they’re taboo.  No one is pro-sexual assault, but many of us are silent when it matters, and that can lead to the same result.  I encourage you to end CMCs silence and speak up for survivors of sexual assault.  I, along with several other dedicated students, am interested in starting a CMC branch of Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault complete with a hotline staffed by students.  The process will not be easy and will require a lot of work, but if you are interested in helping out contact me at [email protected] or sign our petition to the Dean of Students saying we believe it’s high time the issue of sexual assault on campus is addressed with greater support and compassion.  CMCers can speak up with conviction and intelligence and we’ve been leaders since we got our acceptance letters; let’s use our voices to speak up for those who are afraid to, for those who can’t.

And what of the stereotype that CMC women don’t exist?  I hope you’ll join me in proving that misconception wrong every day by speaking out and standing up, by raising our voices together.