May 15, 2017
By Katie Shillman
***Content Warning: Sexual Assault***
When we were little, we were all told at school, at camp, and during field trips that safety was the adults' number one priority. At my elementary school, they took our safety so seriously that there were no swings, and kickball was banned in order to make sure we were not too scathed by our recess endeavors. My mom, no matter where we were, always had not one but a small variety of band-aids in case my sister or I got a cut or scrape.
Now as I enter the “real world” I rarely hear the words, “Safety is our number one priority.” It not only bewilders me, but it infuriates me that our society, who tells our young children day in and day out how much it cares about their safety, also turns around to our young women and men and questions and ignores their claims to being sexually assaulted. Experiencing any form of sexual violence, from being stalked to being rape, is so explicitly a breach of one’s safety. It so obviously violates basic and fundamental human rights. Yet, the issue of sexual assault has been quietly and carefully stowed away for decades, silencing those who need us to protect them.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is important to me because it calls attention to this ever-present and extremely important issue that continues to pollute our world and take a significant toll on far too many people. The Clothesline Display is important to me because it forces students, faculty, and passersby to confront the issue. During week one of spring quarter, no person could walk through Wilson Plaza without being shook by the clotheslines from which hung hundreds of shirts, each made by a survivor. SAAM and Clothesline, unlike so many in our world, including leaders and high-profile people, tells us, “Safety is our number one priority.” It tells us, “You are heard; we care about you; and we support you.” SAAM at UCLA educates our students on an issue that continues to fight for the attention it deserves, gives our students the proper tools to stay safe, and supports our survivors while others turn a blind eye. This is my first SAAM at UCLA, and I have been honored to be a part of it with Bruin Consent Coalition.