Three thirteen

Three-hundred and thirteen hours.

The number of hours before I’m home.

The number of hours before I, for the first time since August, will feel free.

The number of hours before I can breathe again.

The number of hours before I finish two finals, two projects, one speech, one nine-page paper, and as many news articles I can get published.

The number of hours before I move out of my dinky apartment with awful maroon carpet.

The number of hours before I can snuggle my pets and hug my family.

The number of hours before Christmas season really begins and I can Netflix Christmas Hallmark movies like they’re going out of business.

But it’s also the number of hours I have left to spend with friends before I leave the country for a semester.

The number of hours to make the guy I’m crushing on fall in love with me and commit to a transcontinental long-distance relationship.

The number of hours to improve in my reporting class so I don’t fail and have to retake it.

The number of hours I have to say goodbye to friends that graduate in the spring.

The number of hours I have to soak up as much of MU before I’m an ocean away.

I’m so close.

What happened to the time? Where did my semester go? I had so many plans and ideas. So many things to accomplish and places to go.

Now here I am, sitting a Kaldi’s (SURPRISE) attempting to study for finals and write a paper about people I didn’t have enough time to read about.

But all I’ve managed to accomplish is write a few lack-luster notecards and read blog posts of friends that spent the fall abroad.

I just read my dear friend Madi’s blog post and I’ll be honest, it scared the crap out of me. She wrote of amazing adventures and trying not to “do” Europe. It made my wanderlust reach an all-time high. But also made me fear that I wouldn’t have the same experience.

What if I hate my time there or don’t live up the expectations of my internship? What if I endure an unrelenting homesickness that keeps me from experiencing the culture and people? What if I don’t make Harry Styles fall in love with me?

I know I’ve voiced these fears before, but with now only 312 and a half hours left to the semester, it’s becoming much more real. I don’t know if I’m prepared for what my spring semester holds.

I don’t know if I’m prepared for the next 312 and a half hours.

What I do know is that I have every intention of making the most them.

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After “A Rape on Campus”

I’m disgusted.

I’m disgusted with what allegedly happened to “Jackie” in the Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus.”

I’m disgusted with what’s happened to the other countless victims of sexual assault at UVa and the world.

Currently, I’m most disgusted with the responses to this story.

Regardless of whether or not the account was true, the backlash it has received is unreal. Numerous people resorted to victim blaming, which is the most ignorant, idiotic response to something this sensitive I’ve ever seen. If someone claims that they have been sexually assaulted, you take it seriously. Doubt and victim blaming are what keep victims from reporting their assaults. It’s a crime. It needs to be investigated of course, but very few reported cases of sexual assault are the result of a boy/girl who cried wolf.

Nevertheless, it does happen. In the light of new information, Rolling Stone has issued a note to readers stating that they have reason to believe “Jackie” was not as honest about the events at the UVa fraternity two years ago and that they regret not speaking with the assailants.

This also disgusts me. If this “Jackie” created this tale for attention, I feel bad for her. She obviously has something in her life going on that makes her feel the need to act out in such a way. But the fact that someone would lie about a sexual assault makes me almost as nauseous as the act itself.

The damage of a false account at this magnitude is unmeasurable. That being said, I don’t think RS has shared enough information with readers to back this calamity just yet. I understand the purpose of issuing this correction, but was it necessary to do so without sufficient evidence? It makes “Jackie” look like an awful person and creates a very hurtful scenario for those involved and other victims. Who’s to say that the people contradicting her claims are the ones creating false statements? It’s doubtful that a criminal would openly admit to their crimes, so it’s unsurprising that there would be a response from the assailants (and/or their lawyers, I’m sure) stating that the incident never occurred. It would ruin their lives (which, if this is a true event, should be the case in my opinion).

I’m saddened that this is even something that society has to be concerned with. As an independent female attending a large university, I find it mind-boggling that women should fear walking home in the dark alone. I grew up in a small town. I’ve never feared for my life. I’ve never used pepper spray. I carry a pocket knife not for safety, but to cut duct tape and open packages. Why the hell should I have put limitations on my life because other people choose to be monsters? Why should I change the way I dress because it could make a guy believe I “was asking for it?”

I’m not ignorant or oblivious. I may not take the same precautions of my female peers, but I understand that, regardless of my belief that the world is a wonderful place, there is danger. I tend to press my luck (something my family and friends are less than thrilled to know). I’m trusting. And why should I not be? Why is it that I have to be on the defensive every day?

I saw a great analogy on Twitter a few weeks ago that stopped me in my tracks. The truth to it was painful. This is what it said:

“You say not all men are monsters? Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% are poisoned. Go ahead. Eat a handful. Not all M&Ms are poison.” 

Another part of the tweet said this:

“Because we’re taught ‘Don’t leave your drink alone’ instead of ‘Don’t drug someone.'”

Why is this reality? Why do we live in a society that thinks this way? I don’t know how to fix it. As a twenty-something with dreams of world travel, adventure and independence, how am I supposed to live? If I’m trained to hold tight to my purse, hold my keys between my knuckles in defense, and not talk to strangers, how am I expected to meet new people, open up and experience the good of the world?

In exactly one month from tomorrow, I’ll be traveling over 4,000 miles to London, England for a semester abroad. At our orientation, at least one-third of the discussion was focused on safety. They want us to go out and experience the city, but don’t go alone. Experience the nightlife, but don’t stay out too late. Try the bars, but watch your drinks and don’t get too drunk. Meet new people, but don’t talk to strangers. Of the 28 or so going on our trip, all but two are women. The safety talk was very obviously directed at us. (Pepper spray was not mentioned as something to bring with us because it’s illegal in the UK.)

I know that I live in a bubble of optimism. But I know that horrible things happen all the time. MU itself has numerous rape/assault reports every month or two. The Rolling Stone story cited that one in five females are sexually assaulted in college, a number that is one in five too high. I’m achingly aware that this statistic is alarmingly high. I avoid alleyways and talking to sketchy men on the street. I don’t take drinks from strangers. I stay in lit areas. But I don’t let fear hold me back.

It may be my blissful ignorance of the evils of the world or a rebellion against being told to be safe, but I just don’t understand. I don’t understand assailants. I don’t understand how people can be so obtuse and believe that women “ask for it” by wearing leggings or a too-short skirt. I don’t understand why it should be necessary to invent a nail polish that changes color when drinks are “roofied” because I don’t understand what person would drug someone else’s drink. I just don’t understand why we live in a society with so much good, love and joy, but have to suffer terror, pain and sadness.

Regardless of whether or not the RS story told a fabricated tale or a traumatizing true story, “A Rape on Campus” has added a renewed dialogue about rape in our culture.

So that’s my rant for today.

First-Gen

What began as a simple, “Hey, there’s a new organization,” quickly turned into an in-depth look at first-generation college students.

A month and a half ago, my editor came to me with little more than a club name, meeting time and vague idea of what to focus on.

So I, as the keen and amazing reporter that I am (lol), pursued the story.

Four MU upperclassmen were unhappy with the fact that there were no campus organizations that provided support for first-eneration college students. The four founders were first-gem students themselves, so rather than wait around for someone to create a support group, they took it into their own hands.

Though the organization is still in its beginning stages, it has already reached several students. I attended the clubs first official meeting and there were about 20 people in attendance.

The leaders introduced themselves and rattled off an impressive list of successes and involvements at MU.

The purpose of the organization is to help other first-gen students get involved, provide emotional and academic support, as well as form a network.

For the whole story, head over to The Columbia Missourian.

This story, though short, took me far too long to report. My main problem was that NO ONE WOULD GET BACK TO ME.

However, after a little research, I discovered a great association aiming to help first-gen high school and college students adjust. It also turns out that they neither group knew of the other, so I was able to be a connecting link between the two.

Overall, a fairly enjoyable experience.