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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Matthew Mitnick: Prioritizing safety on campus

**TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains sensitive information regarding sexual assault that may be difficult and upsetting to read for some audiences.**

Two years ago, I was serially raped. I was seventeen at the time — a junior in high school. I had never experienced such terror, shame, and humiliation in my entire life; I felt as though it was my fault. Inevitably, this brutal and traumatic event reshaped how I viewed every aspect of the world.

Going to a relatively small school, I timed my route to class meticulously so I would not have to run into my rapist. I was always worried I would see him in public, and sometimes I did. He would blackmail my brother and I to get what he wanted. I had nightmares, frequent panic attacks, and episodes of PTSD. 

Before my first semester in college, I attended a SOAR workshop that talked about sexual assault and the importance of consent before engaging in any sexual activity. As I sat through this workshop, I silently panicked. What if this happens to me again? I thought. I worried about the possibility of being raped again, but this time on campus. I worried about the possibility of my body and my mind being taken advantage of again. 

According to University Health Services, one in four females on this campus will experience sexual assault, and I am still not safe from that statistic. I hoped that my college experience wouldn’t be a repeat of highschool.

In November, I was asked to work with Matthew Mitnick on his District 8 Alder campaign. My good friend had mentioned that one of the main policies on his platform was safety. This immediately gave me a feeling of relief. It felt refreshing to have someone running for office, especially a student like me, addressing the issue of campus safety openly. As I have worked with him through past months, we have gotten to know each other well and have become great friends. 

Eventually, I opened up to him about why campus safety is so important to me. I shared my story of sexual assault with Matthew and he validated my trauma, whereas some of my peers in the past did not. What had happened to me has happened to countless other individuals at UW-Madison. As students, we must work to create a safe campus so no one has to live in fear. 

When we talk about campus safety, it is not a matter of what gender you identify with. It is about the collective effort to strive for progressive change on campus in order to reduce assault of any kind. We cannot afford to exclude people from having a seat at the table when talking about campus safety. Rather, we should welcome all perspectives. 

As a survivor of sexual assault, I invite advocates like Matthew Mitnick to the table for conversations about safety on and off campus. From ideas like lighting the Lakeshore Path to a late-night free ride program for students, I truly believe that Matthew is the positive change UW-Madison students need. 

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