Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘SpeakOut Brandeis!’ raises awareness, but survivors need more

Published: March 14, 2014
Section: Editorials, Opinions

A Tumblr page featuring anonymous confessions about sexual assault, written by Brandeis students, sparked mass discussion this past week. Most of the posts on “SpeakOut! Brandeis” go into extreme depth, depicting the assault and resulting fear and pain. Firstly, we want to commend those speaking out on their courage. Sexual assault is often viewed as a hidden topic, a dirty secret that survivors must bear. Many college students feel stuck in a university setting where wild parties are the norm, where extremely sexual grinding and unwanted touching have become accepted. The students posting on “SpeakOut! Brandeis” are brave, posting warnings to other students and loudly proclaiming the message that this kind of assault is not OK, that no means no. And this is a message that the entire student body needs to hear.

Yet there needs to be an awareness that Tumblr is not the best medium to display these atrocities. “SpeakOut! Brandeis” offers a voice to students who feel as though the university does not offer the proper support for their situations, but Tumblr does not provide the support these students seek either. Tumblr is a blog creator that allows countless amounts of posts with negative attitudes toward recovery across its servers. Tumblr delegitimizes these confessions, confessions made by Brandeis students that need to be addressed. The admissions posted on the SpeakOut! page are meant to be taken as factual statements, and should be treated as so, but the stigma against Tumblr for the density of these types of pages leaves the confessions simply lost in the noise.

While Tumblr is an easy vehicle to set up and spread popular thoughts through social media, it eventually reaches a limit of how useful it can be. Efforts need to be made to support the confessors on the page. The Tumblr should offer survivors the resources typically offered to survivors of sexual assault. Brandeis has hired a sexual assault services and prevention specialist who is knowledgeable on helping the survivor both emotionally and psychologically overcome the trauma. She is also not required to report the assault to authorities, and will keep any information strictly confidential. Sheila McMahon, Brandeis’ specialist, should be the first one receiving these messages and not an insular online community in Tumblr. Brandeis has also made several other steps to combat sexual assault, from the Bystander Intervention Program to the constant availability of the Brandeis police.

No amount of visibility from a website can offer enough solace to a sexual assault survivor. Brandeis’ efforts to increase programs against sexual assault have come a long way over the past two years. While “SpeakOut! Brandeis” is a good way to raise awareness, survivors need more than a simple Tumblr blog.

Students who may have experienced a sexual assault or have other related concerns can contact:
Sheila McMahon
Gosman 55-230 (main floor)

Department of Public Safety

Psychological Counseling Center

Counseling and Rape Crisis Hotline