Content warning: There will be a broad discussion of Sexual Assault (SA) in this article.
Last week, SAASHA (The Student Alliance Against Sexual Harassment and Assault) held a rally calling on LUCC to work with us in prioritizing survivor safety and fighting back against SA on campus. I’m here to talk about why LUCC, student organizations and all students on campus should work with SAASHA towards the common goal of safety and autonomy for us all.
I’m an ethnic studies major and a gender studies minor, and one of the most prevalent ideas in both fields is the idea of coalition building. Black women, and particularly Black queer women, going as far back as the Combahee River Collective of 1974, have theorized about how the interlocking nature of their oppression on the grounds of their gender and race has put them at the bottom of the social hierarchy. In particular, poor Black and brown trans and other queer women have never been historically welcome in anti-capitalist movements, civil rights movements or women’s movements, and certainly not in mainstream society. These queer Black feminists theorize that because of their position at the intersections of these movements, they are uniquely able to pull them all together. Not one of these movements is as strong alone as they are when they stand with all the others, because otherwise, they can never fully capture the experience of all members of their movement.
SA impacts all of us. Men and women and gender-nonconforming people can be victims and survivors of SA. People of all economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds can be victims and survivors of SA. In particular, Black and brown women and people who identify under the umbrella of LGBTQ are disproportionately victims and survivors of SA (Know Your IX). There are countless other friends and loved ones of survivors who are also affected. I, as a white queer person assigned female at birth on campus, am myself a survivor, and cannot even get close to counting the number of survivors I know personally on both of my hands.
Beyond this, the right to safety and autonomy over one’s body is one that belongs to all of us. If Lawrence does not respect the right to safety and personal autonomy of survivors on campus, how do you know they will protect your right to safety and autonomy over your body? Your body as an athlete, who runs and swims and throws and fences. As an artist or a musician, whose body creates the art and music that we live on. As a student of color in a predominantly white institution. We all deserve to have control over ourselves, to have a say in what we do and do not want for ourselves, especially in a time when we have control over so little else.
Student organizations working towards the inclusion and protection of marginalized students, Black students, brown students, first-generation students, international students, poor students and queer students: do you feel that your body and autonomy have been protected by Lawrence? Does Lawrence take you and your demands seriously? LUCC: Lawrence is using you to do the work of protecting and serving us so they don’t have to. Our safety and autonomy have often been placed in your hands, when you are students too, and just as much at risk as the rest of us. We fight for you too.
This is not just SAASHA’s fight. This is your fight too. We are fighting for Black women, for queer people, for all students who feel they can’t speak up because of their documentation status or the scholarships they need to stay at Lawrence. We need you all to fight with us.
And when that call comes, you better say hello. No hesitation, no hiding deep down below, no beg your pardon, you better stay and grow your liberation.