Latz: Sexual assault is not a single story

Emma Latz, Op-Ed Contributor

Let me begin with a trigger warning: this piece discusses sexual assault on campus. For survivors who may feel harm or be triggered from reading the content of this piece, I urge you to please take caution and first and foremost take care of your well-being. Various resources for support are also listed at the end of this piece.

I am a survivor of sexual assault. My assaulter and I were friends, and we had consensually hooked up once prior. However, the second time was different: I said no. I said no many, many times, but it was not heard.

I’ve decided to share my story because my assaulter is female, and I identify as a pansexual cisgender woman. Despite sexual assault being by its very nature unconstrained by gender expression and sexual orientation, I have found my experience to be too often ignored, invalidated or even made the punchline for jokes on this campus because it strays from the dominant conception of what sexual violence is. For example, I once tried to share my experience with a friend here. His response to my vulnerability was, “Damn, that sounds like the plot of a porno,” followed by a chuckle at what he thought was a clever one-liner.

Generally, this campus fails to recognize sexual assault as the intersectional issue that it is. Sexual assault on this campus does not just occur between Greek men and women in fraternity basements. It occurs in off-campus apartments and in dorm rooms, and survivors can be people with varying identities. I was thoroughly disappointed when I noticed that the agenda of Sexual Assault Awareness Month included a support group for those who are Greek-affiliated but failed to offer a support group for anyone else on campus. This pushes the narrative of the single story of sexual assault on campus: the heteronormative notion that a heterosexual cis-man is the perpetrator and that it only happens within the context of fraternities.

I am not trying to devalue anyone’s experience, especially Greek survivors, nor do I want to diminish the work of campus groups like Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault or Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators. But I do want to bring awareness to the fact that people with marginalized identities have an even more difficult time having their sexual assault acknowledged, because their voices are already muted. Holding a Greek affiliation is already an agent identity on this campus, an identity that carries with it institutional power and privilege. As a non-affiliated pansexual woman, I am often degraded to simply being “kinky,” “exploratory” and “slutty” without having Greek letters to command a contradicting sense of urgency to my story. Thus, who I am fundamentally as a human being is not respected or valued. This notion carries over to my sexual assault experience: there’s no way it could be sexual assault, right? It was just two slutty queer friends exploring their sexuality, so I don’t need a support group.

Those with marginalized identities are at an even higher risk of experiencing sexual assault in the first place. According to a study completed by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in 2015, 46.4 percent of lesbians and 74.9 percent of bisexual women reported sexual violence during their lifetime compared to 43.3 percent of heterosexual women. This statistic becomes even more dire and alarming when isolated to women of color.

I’ll leave you with this challenge: When you draw awareness to sexual assault within this community, when you discuss the patriarchal institutions protecting sexual assault, when you demand justice for sexual assault survivors, consider all narratives of sexual assault and recognize that sexual assault is very much an intersectional issue. Actively engage with this epidemic in a way that forces you to destroy the single story of what sexual violence is, because sexual violence is not a single story.

I am a survivor of sexual assault. It does not matter that I’m a pansexual woman and it does not matter that my assaulter was a woman. There are no qualifiers. Sexual assault is sexual assault, and it’s time that my story along with all other survivors is validated as such.

If you find yourself in emotional distress after reading this article, please seek support. For those on campus, appointments with CARE staff can be made online at or by phone at 847-491-2054. If you need immediate support, the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline has a 24-hour phone service at 1-888-293-2080. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, also has a 24-hour hotline at 800-656-HOPE(4673) and a live chatting service on their website. In extreme situations of crisis, please call 911 or University Police at 846-491-3456.

Emma Latz is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.