“Believe me. Listen. You will hear me. I am worthy.” I do not listen to Lady Gaga lyrics often, but lately, her voice has been echoing in my mind. Over and over, I have watched her music video, which powerfully depicts the devastation of campus rape. Over and over, I hear the agonizing cry, “Til it happens to you, you don’t know how I feel.”
It can be very easy to ignore or forget about the sexual violence and assault that happens on a daily basis in our country. We can be so focused on our own lives, problems, hopes, and ideals that we can become deaf to the agony around us. We can argue about statistics or whose fault it is, and in the process, forget that fellow human beings are being deeply harmed. We can say “Oh, it will never happen to me,” but it can. A few years ago, I had a friend who was alone one night, walking to visit another friend on her college campus. She felt very safe, but her phone battery had died. Nothing bad happened, thankfully. A few days later, we heard that another woman had been walking in that same area at night, and had been attacked. As my friend and I continued to talk, our realization lingered in the air: It could have been me.
Sexual violence and assault can happen anywhere, to men or women, in communities, on large or small college campuses, even in homes. Whether it is rape occurring at college, abuse in your home, or sex trafficking in your hometown, thousands of men, women, boys, and girls are being harmed. We live in a society that is permeated with selfishness, use, lust, and instant gratification; we live in a society where sexually violent movies like Fifty Shades of Grey bring in millions of dollars. We also live in a society where many organizations try to bring awareness to the issue of sexual violence. We can—and should—promote the safety guidelines from these groups, like “never leave your drink unattended,” “make a plan,” or “seek outside help.” However, we cannot let ourselves stop at simply listing off guidelines. We need to go further.
If we are serious about building a culture of purity and chastity, we need to listen to the cries of those who have been raped, exploited, and abused. Let their stories and lives move you into compassionate action, so that we can create a more edifying, pure, safe culture. Make your community, church, or campus aware of the reality of sexual violence. Promote chastity in your own life, upholding boundaries and communication in your relationships. Hold others to the standard of self-giving love. Surround yourself with like-minded friends who will help you strive for chastity and battle the culture of selfishness and exploitation. Together, let us bring healing, compassion, love and sacrifice into our world.
“Believe me. Listen. You will hear me. I am worthy.” There is no question; this plea for help is directed towards all of us. The question is, how will we respond?
AnneMarie Miller received degrees in English and Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has a passion for the Catholic Faith, chastity, St. Francis of Assisi, and frolicking around barefoot. In August 2013, she was blessed to marry her incredible husband, and the two of them enjoy the epic adventures of young married life in the Midwest. When she’s not doing housework, writing, reading, working, or playing chess, AnneMarie reflects on life’s beauty and various random observations on her blog, Sacrifice of Love (http://marianninja.blogspot.com).