Happy Denim Day, from LUCC

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Disclaimer: This story includes discussion of sensitive topics like sexual assault.

Wednesday, April 27. As survivors were out walking and talking about their trauma to find any sense of hope or healing, our student government LUCC decided that the Appleton Pro-Life Students would be a school recognized club. Instead of waiting until a different month, week, or even day to make their decision, they chose Denim Day – a day that is supposed to recognize survivors. Why this day? Why not wait? LUCC couldn’t give survivors even a day to feel supported and recognized. This event shows how much LUCC truly doesn’t care about students and survivors.

I’m honestly not surprised by these decisions anymore. They all fly by one and the same. There goes my hope, there goes my safety, there goes my power, there goes my personal autonomy. In October, I was sexually assaulted on campus. Since then, I have felt nothing but support – from my friends. From the university, I have felt outcast, drained, hopeless and alone. My reporting options were shoved in my face while I was confused and looking for a way out. I chose to process before reporting, and all my options faded away. If I wasn’t going to push for something to happen, admin was going to let me fall. Countless times I have been told how powerful and strong I am for speaking about my assault. But I ask you to look around because I know there are many people who aren’t as “strong” as me who are fearful to speak up, especially after decisions like this one from LUCC that further take our right to personal autonomy. My strength and power should not be what allows me to talk openly about my assault – every survivor should have the resources and space to do so. No one should be scared to report, no one should feel too weak to report, and decisions like the ones from LUCC make it even harder for survivors to find their voices. Just as my autonomy was stolen during my assault, again it is up for grabs because of clubs like APLS.

To the men on LUCC who voted to approve, I implore you to call your mother, sister, grandma, girlfriend, etc. and tell her how you voted. Does that thought scare you? The resilient, powerful women in your life knowing that you made a decision that violates their right to personal autonomy. I’m disappointed that anyone would vote to approve this club – but even more that men would vote to approve this club when they know it directly effects women and not them.

Denim Day should have been about survivors. It should have been focused on healing. It should have been our day. And it was, until this decision. Yet again our personal autonomy is under attack, on the day meant for our healing. But survivors have never been able to be weak: we were forced to rise from the ashes. Forced to build a home in the rubble. Forced to be “strong people” in order to fit in to society after our trauma. As survivors, we also know how many silent survivors this decision also affects, and whether they have shared their story or not, we carry them with us. I will not allow this decision to define my time at Lawrence. I will not let a bunch of men sit in a room and vote on my right to safety and bodily autonomy, especially on Denim Day.

Appleton Pro-Life Students is a disgrace to our university and its survivors. I am appalled that so many students and class representatives would vote in favor of a club that directly opposes women’s rights. Even more so, I am fearful of our current LUCC president’s power because he made the tie breaking vote, even though this decision affects women’s autonomy, not his. This club did not need to be recognized to hold events and preach their opinions. All this recognition does is give them university funding that comes from the tuition of many survivors.

As a survivor I’m frightened to formally announce my presence through this piece. I have been able to use my silence as a shield; no one had to see how much I was hurting if I didn’t talk about it. But after this decision, I am ready for the stares of pity and the meaningless “I’m sorry”s because it means each person who voted in favor of APLS will have to see my face and see who they failed. They will not get to hide from this decision, and I am not just a statistic or nameless story. Normally survivors are taught to hide in the shadows, but I refuse to be silenced and I refuse to go unheard. You will see me, and you will hear my voice. It is up to you to face me or turn your head due to your own embarrassment.