LTE: Take the Campus Climate Survey. I’m begging you

This article discusses sexual violence and sexual assault.

After several days of talking about the 2019 Campus Climate Survey to anyone who would listen, I decided it was time to do my due diligence and actually complete the survey myself. As a survivor of sexual violence who has spoken very openly and publicly about my experiences, I thought that the survey would be easy for me. I’ve been in therapy on-and-off for about four years, I’ve discussed just about every disturbing thought that I’ve ever had with my my own therapist and with CARE staff members, and some days, it feels like my experiences don’t have to take up as much space in my life as they have in the past.

Today is not one of those days.

If you haven’t ever had to check one of the boxes that says “Yes, I have been stalked,” or “Yes, I have been physically assaulted,” or “Yes, I have been raped,” I am genuinely happy for you. Nobody should ever have to check any of those boxes. The fact remains that some of us do, and we need your support more than ever.

I don’t think it’s possible for others to understand how hard it can be for survivors of violence to complete this kind of survey. For me, it’s like surgery. It feels like a robot surgeon is taking a scalpel to my life. It dives right in, no anesthetic, no regard for my suffering, and it starts poking and prodding the parts of me that already hurt the worst. Wounds that seemed as though they were starting to heal are re-opened and though I know they’ll close again in good time, for right now, all I can feel is the same pain that originally formed the wounds. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if it hurts worse now or if it hurt worse originally. Making me aware of the pain also makes me aware of just how disgusting and horrific the situations originally were. Tears obscure the computer screen as I confirm the truth about parts of my life that I’d often like to pretend never happened.

The worst part of it all is what comes afterwards. The pain of taking the survey doesn’t simply disappear once the survey is over. Instead, it resurfaces in much more pathological forms. I already know that once I finish the survey I’ll spend days locked in fierce combat with my own mind.

You could have prevented all of this if you had just been more direct. Why didn’t you just explicitly say “no?” So many people have suffered so much worse and are doing so much better. Why didn’t you fight back? You should have reported sooner. You probably let others get hurt since you waited years to tell anyone what happened.

The logical part of me knows all the right responses to these toxic thoughts. It doesn’t matter, though, once those thoughts have entered my brain, they’ll just keep coming up with more excuses and more ways to evade the logical answers. Some nights, I’ll still go to bed thinking it was my fault. Some nights, I’ll still feel the guilt of letting my parents believe that I was okay. Some nights, I’ll only be able to feel anger at being robbed of being “normal.”

All of this, and yet, I’m still taking the survey. Four years ago, data from this same survey was used to expand the Office of Equity, giving survivors and their friends more access to resources to help guide them along the healing process. There is still so much work to be done on this campus. Based on the statistics SHAPE uses regarding sexual violence, each of the three current CARE staff members is responsible for the needs of over 1,000 survivors of sexual violence on this campus.

In addition, they’re expected to provide trainings for innumerable organizations on campus including all ASG-funded student groups. CARE staff also directly oversee three different sexual violence-related student groups. The employees are overworked and exhausted. Many survivors like myself don’t know where we would be without their help and support in our darkest times. We need to make the university prioritize their office. I know that I don’t need to say anything about CAPS; anyone who has tried to make an appointment there knows how difficult it is to find time for even a phone consultation.

Please make your voice heard. Survivors of sexual violence know how important it is to give the university accurate data and many of us are willing to cause ourselves immeasurable pain to do so. For you, it may be an inconvenience, but for us, it’s often a matter of literal life and death.

– Spencer Colton