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April 6, 2016

MARY’S MUSINGS | Words Have Power

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I have to take deep breaths when someone frustrates me or says something incredibly offensive. Oftentimes I walk away because it’s not worth stooping to someone else’s level to bring them down. I take time to cool down because saying things in anger often leads to regret – your words have power. I’ve had friends who put me down in public and in private in order to make themselves feel better. I have gone through a lot, but I don’t hurt others purposefully. Why do we put so much emphasis on everything going wrong in our lives rather than focusing on what is going right? It’s difficult, I know, and it’s impossible to stay positive 100% of the time; I know I don’t. But you can always try to exude more positivity than negativity.

When you’re not having the best day, sometimes it’s okay to feel sad, but having something to look forward to or focusing on a fond experience or memory is the best medicine. After all that happened, I could have become a jaded, mean-spirited person because the world decided to shit on me. But what good is that doing anyone? I’ve seen and known too many people who always just complain about everything because they see life as just too unfair to handle. Staying stuck in that mindset, with that outlook on life, is only going to further isolate you from genuine friends and from being true to yourself.

During my freshman, sophomore and even junior year, I became so frustrated over all the problems others constantly griped about. I wanted to scream and say “oh your life is so hard, try being forced into something sexual, unable to escape and riding out the pain because you are so fucking scared, frozen in time and just wanting to erase everything.”

But I never said any of that because what good would it do? It makes the people around me uncomfortable, pity filling their eyes, unable to understand. It doesn’t help me solve my problems. I don’t ever wish that pain upon anyone, but it’s frustrating. What is even worse are the comments people make around me.

I have had several people around me joke about rape and suicide. Let me repeat that: they fucking made jokes about being raped and committing suicide. Who does that? Someone around you may have gone through something traumatic and you just presented a trigger. This has happened to me more times than I can count, and insensitive comments still come from both those who are aware of and aren’t aware of my situation.. Comments about how anyone could possibly commit suicide because it’s so selfish. Comments about how they should just kill themselves because they are loaded with work. People have asked me why I take birth control if I’m not having sex, because they believe only one reason exists for taking birth control. Those words may not have affected me at the time, but the nightmares come later. My monster haunts me, lurking in the corners of my mind. He came close to breaking me, but I survived. Drinking more and knowingly getting myself into uncomfortable circumstances didn’t help me. But you learn through your mistakes and you strive to never make them again.

Words have so much power and hearing my peers – hearing friends – and strangers joke about serious issues or chat about them in such a nonchalant way is hard. Enough is enough. If you don’t understand something, don’t make comments that undermine their seriousness. Educate yourself. I am tired of hearing people criticize women or men for not coming forward or coming forward awhile after the fact to press charges against someone who raped or sexually assaulted them. It is so fucking difficult. I was lucky to have a positive and supportive experience with the Cornell Police while I was terrified out of my witsand just wanted to hit a delete button for all that happened to me. Many people don’t. I had to go over what happened to me again and again and again with the university lawyers. I didn’t go through a session without having to stop because I was either crying or on the verge of tears. Being asked what I was wearing or if alcohol was involved was awful because I wasn’t wearing something “provocative” and I was stone-cold sober.  The assumption that an outfit or impairment could have  made me seem less of a victim was despicable.

Pressing charges was worth it for me because he was no longer physically there to torment me, but it took me awhile to finally feel relieved  because at the time, it didn’t feel worth it. I’m sick of assumptions about victims. I’m tired of hearing ‘Oh well, if it was me I would’ve fought back’ or ‘if it was me, I would have immediately pressed charges.’ That just shows how little you understand, because every situation is different, just like every individual. Unless you’ve gone through it,  don’t you dare make assumptions or undermine what someone else suffers.
Stand up to end these negative perceptions, but also stand up to educate yourself and others, to end the lack of understanding. Words have power, so use them to help.

Mary is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. On campus she is involved with the Every1 Campaign and is in a sorority.  She loves reading, watching The Office and Friends and geeking out about Disney and The Lord of the Rings. Olaf the snowman is her spirit animal. Mary’s Musings appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. You can reach Mary at [email protected].