When I posed a question about abuse on Facebook, I was inundated with responses.
As a professor, I like to use Facebook as an extension of my classroom, a place where I can offer interesting articles and challenging discussions. Because the Facebook Live rape case and other events have put sexual assault and predatory behavior all over the news lately, I recently posted this question:
“What do you wish people knew/understood about experiencing sexual assault?”
Given the private nature of the question and the public nature of the medium, I anticipated only a handful of responses. I was astonished that dozens and dozens of people responded, whether directly on the thread or in private messages. (I should also note that I know most of the respondents in real life, including many who have been my students.) Their comments altogether filled up 60 pages.
I was surprised—and yet not surprised. A few years ago, I conducted a similar informal survey on Twitter by sharing the story of being stalked by my high school teacher and using the hashtag #howoldwereyou. It generated an equally tremendous response. In my research for a related essay, I learned the sobering statistics about childhood sexual abuse: 7 percent of girls in grades 5–8 and 12 percent of girls in grades 9–12 report having been sexually abused, along with 3 percent of boys grades 5–8 and 5 percent of boys in grades 9–12. The numbers for sexual assault are only worse for adults, and college students are particularly vulnerable. The University of Texas at Austin recently released a report indicating that 15 percent of its female undergraduate students have been raped.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a good time to honor the many brave souls who shared their experiences with me. These are brothers and …