Op-ed: A thank you note to sexual violence survivors

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains material which may be upsetting or harmful to survivors of sexual violence.

Thank you for your courage. Thank you for getting up each day and stepping into the world. Thank you for setting an example for the rest of us. Thank you for facing your fears, for overcoming your fears and for conquering your fears. Would that the rest of us had a fraction of your courage.

Thank you for sharing your stories. Our culture and our institutions will not change unless we acknowledge what is happening behind closed doors and inside locked rooms. Thank you to those survivors who have picked themselves up, brushed themselves off and have taken on billion-dollar institutions, famous celebrities and powerful politicians. Thank you to those survivors who have posted experiences to neutoo.com. And thank you to all of the survivors who have confided in friends and family. As hard as it is for you to talk about these moments, know that the world is changing because you have had the courage to speak and to take back the full measure of your personhood.

We are sorry. We know the statistics: About one in five college women and one in 20 college men will be victims of these assaults. The statistics reassure us that we are on the right side of this issue. We don’t assault people. In fact, we don’t do anything. And that is the problem. By saying nothing, by doing nothing, we have sided with sexual predators. We are sorry that we didn’t listen or act before.

It is only when we are confronted by the pervasiveness, by the magnitude and by the horror of these countless stories, that we are made to know that we must speak and act to support you.

You are citizens. You have power. You have a voice. You have billions of allies who believe the stories you tell. We care about you and we want you to be successful and happy. Thank you for not retreating, for not disengaging, for not allowing yourself to be silenced. That would be easy and, frankly, understandable. But because you have spoken, you are why the world is becoming a safer and kinder place.

Thank you. We are listening. And, inspired by you, we are ready to act.

Greg Goodale is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies.