Out of every day I’m at Northeastern, I feel the most school spirit the night of the Underwear Run. It’s a great way to bring a large group of the NU community together to celebrate and blow off some steam. However, this year the Underwear Run was far from a fun release for me. At two different times during the run, I was inappropriately touched.
While in a crowd, someone attempted to unclasp my bra. Later in the run, a male student slapped my butt. This is not just inappropriate; this is ‘indecent assault and battery’ according to Massachusetts state law. I am fed up with people who believe they have the right to touch my body without my consent. Being a woman does not mean my body is an object for someone’s consumption or pleasure. Whether dressed in professional attire or running through the streets in underwear, everyone has a right to basic personal space and safety.
Not only is it illegal and inappropriate for people to touch the most personal areas of my body, sexualized street harassment promotes rape culture. By allowing members of our community to violate others on the streets, we are suggesting it is permissible to take control of someone else’s body without consent.
It is disheartening to see that even some of our leaders are continuing these norms. This semester, I am taking an introductory class with almost exclusively impressionable first-year students. When discussing drugs and alcohol in class, our professor was sure to encourage all of the women in class to be careful about how much alcohol they drink at parties because sexual assault is so prevalent. Perhaps instead we should start teaching young men sexual assault and objectification is unacceptable.
I encourage readers who see themselves as leaders in any degree to challenge these dangerous norms. It is each of our responsibilities to speak up against street harassment and sexual assault whenever we can do so safely.
The Underwear Run is meant to be all about building community. This year, because I suffered from harassment surrounded by my peers, I did not feel supported I felt isolated. Northeastern University is such a large community full of beautiful minds – let’s take some time to think about ways we can be more welcoming and inclusive to everyone who calls Northeastern home.
–Jackie Myers is a middler human services major at Northeastern.