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Monday, May 27, 2024

A Call to Share Your Story

On Feb. 10, “The Map Project” went up in Davis Library. The project documented locations where students had experienced sexual assault at Middlebury. And if there was one lesson from this map, it was that sexual assault occurs everywhere at Middlebury. With the exclusion of one residential building, every dormitory on campus was covered by at least one dot. And with more than 100 red dots spread out across the Middlebury campus, the fact that sexual violence has affected so many of us was made visually clear.

Collecting locations for this project was extremely easy, a fact that unfortunately speaks to the pervasive and common experience of sexual violence at Middlebury. However, this also shows the willingness of students to bravely share their experiences in order to raise awareness of an urgent issue. After a few weeks of light advertisement for the project, more than 100 students had submitted locations.

As a group, “It Happens Here” chose to pair this project with the powerful stories that students submitted for the event last spring. No matter how often we hear the statistic that one in four women, as well as one in seven men, will experience attempted or completed rape during college, the gravity and the pain inflicted from this violence is most truly understood through personal narrative. The event last spring brought 500 Middlebury students, faculty and staff to listen to and stand with students who had personal experiences with this violence, whether it was a close friend who was a survivor, a mother or themselves. The event highlighted our intolerance of permitting this form of assault in the Middlebury community. This intolerance of sexual violence is extremely necessary in order to form a community that is aware of sexual assault, is kind and sensitive to its survivors and is willing to stand up and prevent sexual assault in the future. Therefore, we are asking you to share your story — whatever that story might be — for the spring event this year.

Seeing the more-than-100 red dots spread across the Middlebury campus gave me the chills. It wasn’t just the sheer number of dots — just one dot is one too many. But I can imagine the powerful stories that each dot represents, and I know that the sharing of these stories can truly spur change. It can be a poem, it can be a sentence and it can be 10 pages long. It can be about rape. It can be about words. It can be about anything in between that was violating. It can be about an experience at Middlebury or an experience that occurred before you started college. It can be about your sister, your brother or your friend. When sexual assault touches one in four women at college, we all have a story to share and we all have the power to write our way to social change, to a campus where there might not be so many red dots and so much pain covering our home. Share your story at go/IHH.

Written by EMILY PEDOWITZ '13 of Briarcliff, N.Y.