"It doesn't go away. This won't go away after Spring Break, Emory!"
These words were triumphantly spoken by the student coordinators of the rally held recently in the Coca-Cola Commons. Perhaps they meant that their brand of activism or their continued orchestrations of demands for justice would not come to a screeching halt just because there was no microphone in front of them. Or perhaps they meant that their coordination of more rallies and protests would not end with an indoor gathering right before spring break. Maybe they even meant that their quest for knowledge -- so they can arm themselves properly with the tools needed to educate others -- would not in any way cease to be a part of their lives.
A willingness to remember issues and to take action is quite commendable. The notion that activism and awareness among the Emory community will become features of the culture on this campus is exciting as well as intellectually and socially stimulating. There is another pattern of behavior, however, that has not gone away, and the prospect of its permanence is not too invigorating.
Violence against women in the Emory community will not go away after spring break. It didn't go away before spring break, and it will not go away until it is recognized, not as a simple and unimportant issue within a hierarchy of other oppressions or "-isms," but as a dangerous problem that necessitates continued confrontation. Violent acts against women, in their many manifestations, are problems that do not appear to have recognition at Emory beyond the Police Beat reports in every Friday's Emory Wheel or rampant rumors spread throughout the community. This may be due not only to silence and embarrassment on the part of the survivors and the perpetrators, but also to a serious minimization of the issue by members -- both men and women -- of our community. Incidents involving violence against women often are dismissed by virtue of the fact that they are explained as happening within a larger, more important sphere of oppression. While it is crucial to recognize and deal with discrimination against humanity in its entirety, violence against women does not go away when placed within such a context.
Violent behavior of any sort, and against women in particular, is insidious, intolerable and counterproductive to the creation and maintenance of a positive, equitable environment for everyone. Date rape, stranger rape and the emotional and physical abuse of women all hinder our progress toward acknowledging and celebrating our enormous diversity as human beings. Yet often we ignore the enormity and pertinence of this problem. Consequently, these women -- human beings -- who hurt so terribly often are also ignored. Violence against women does not go away just because due attention is not given to the people involved.
Women who call this campus their home, school and/or workplace should feel safe while studying or working anywhere, in any building and in the company of anyone they might choose. Likewise, women also should feel free to enjoy campus parties and events without the threat of physical, emotional or sexual violation. One would think that a woman could even involve herself in an argument within the semi-private atmosphere of her residence hall without being physically assaulted. Many such incidents occur on this campus, and the few which have been publicized serve as reminders to us: violence against women does not go away, even when we educate ourselves and take the precautions that are supposed to ensure our safety.
I admire the effort made at the rally to shed some light on this topic. However, a verbal statement at a protest is not enough. The demonization of administrative officers throughout the University also is not enough, and the refusal of our community to pull together as a whole -- students, staff and faculty -- is most certainly not what is needed to confront this painful and often overlooked issue.
As an Emory College graduate and an employee of the Emory Women's Center, a former student and a current staff member, I cannot express how critical it is for us not to lay blame on one another, but to listen to and learn from each other. It is inherent in the mission statements of many administrative units of the University -- including the Women's Center -- that they are to serve as potent resources for everyone on the campus in a programmatic, educational and personal support capacity.
All of us, in all of our difference, need to strive to work together. Together, we will mobilize to educate the community concerning violence against women. Together, we will do our best to make certain that the survivors of violent acts are made aware of the resources available to them. Together, we can make sure that women feel safe under any and all circumstances surrounding their lives here and that proper actions are taken concerning violent perpetrators.
The student leaders were right -- this will not go away after any break or lull in activity on campus. We should all seize this opportunity to take further action together. Unless and until we speak openly about what we can do concerning these matters to support -- not condemn -- one another, violence against women will not go away.
Davina C. Lopez '95C is assistant to the director of the Emory Women's Center.