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My Luxury

May 26, 2011

This piece was shared last week Thursday at the Speak Up, an annual campus-wide event where members of the Carleton community share their reflections about sexual harassment, assault and abuse.  

These are some of my reflections and thoughts after attending past SpeakUps here at Carleton:

My Luxury

by Kaz Skubi, 5/19/2011

I just left the SpeakUp, but it was far from leaving me. I sat there in the cool spring grass and listened to horrors, to triumphs, to fury, and to love…but most of all, to truth; to reality. I felt a sharp pinch and looked down, realizing the candle I was holding had begun to drip on my hand. I winced, yet found myself stifling the emotion. Here I was, listening to stories of the utmost pain, of emotional scarring, and I had the nerve to think some hot wax was worth hurting over? But wait, no, this feeling was a luxury. That I have never known true pain is a luxury. That I am not dulled to the world because of my experiences is a luxury. That I can afford to feel without the fear of bringing up memories that leave me trembling and breathless at night is a luxury. My luxury….and I so I sat there and felt everything, let myself feel everything, knowing that not everyone had my luxury.

As I walked away that night, the wax dried in the warm spring air, and I peeled it off. The skin below was smooth and untouched. That was my luxury. Yet for so many others, no matter what justice is done, what therapy is sought, and what healing is reached, a survivor is always a survivor. That lasts forever. That is burnt in.

I walked back towards my dorm in a stupor, and saw students gathered in a circle practicing a capella songs. I saw another person jogging down the street, utterly absorbed in her music. From somewhere nearby, I heard the end of a conversation about grad school. And suddenly I didn’t know where I was. Was this Carleton? Are these my peers? I couldn’t even fathom the idea that there were people here, oblivious to this terrible reality.

I’ve never met a Carleton student who was in favor of sexual violence. I’ve never heard anyone on this campus say “she deserved it” or “she was asking for it.” But how many people are here today? How many people make this SpeakUp a priority? How many people pay attention during the New Student Week presentation? How many people still carry the “Not On Our Campus” pledge in their wallets? How is it possible to have such a reserved stance, such a carefree attitude; how can you take the middle ground when it comes to sexual violence?

It’s just a luxury, a luxury for someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. A luxury for someone who has never heard a friend speak from the deepest parts of their soul. A luxury for someone who has never held a stranger in their arms because a hug was the only consolation they could give. A luxury for someone who has never heard the strongest woman they know break down in tears. A luxury for someone who can freely roam the halls of any dorm without being reminded of what happened there. A luxury for someone who doesn’t have to put their back to a wall every time they sit down. A luxury for someone who doesn’t wake up every day and ask God what they did to deserve this. A luxury for someone who doesn’t understand that we are doing this to our friends and our peers, that we are doing this to each other in our own community. That we are doing this to ourselves… A luxury, a luxury for the only person who can afford to be so goddamn apathetic.

When something has the power to ruin lives, to crush dreams, the power to label someone – to permanently brand them a survivor, a victim. The power to take away the people we care about and love, the power to forever change someone’s future and keep them from having the luxuries we are all so blessed with….

And we have the luxury of ignoring this, and not doing everything in our power to stop sexual violence. Then I ask you, what sort of luxury is this?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Perry permalink
    June 1, 2011 5:33 PM

    I am a victim of sexual assault (I refuse to use newspeaky terms like survivor, thank you very much), and I very much resent it when people try to to speak for me. Nor do I think that it’s some sort of moral failing for people not to attend your event. Please leave me out of your student activist bailiwick. I swear, some people at liberal arts schools just seem to embrace this as the secular alternative to religious sanctimony.

  2. July 12, 2011 11:18 AM

    I too am a survivor of sexual violence (I definitely prefer that term), and while I don’t like people putting words in my mouth I do appreciate non-survivors speaking about the gravity of the situation. I do appreciate people speaking about the effect sexual violence has on the community, because the effect is enormous. I also appreciate people making events like the Speak Up a priority, because if thinking about sexual violence and what sexual violence does to a community can be a priority for just a few hours of someone’s time then that is a step toward making prevention a fundamental concern on campus and in their lives.

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