A message to college freshmen
The first taste of freedom is so sweet. Mine came on high school graduation day more than 20 years ago, but I can still remember how it felt.
A whole new world was opening up to me. I was 18, an adult, and old enough to make my own decisions. I made some good moves, some questionable ones, and some I'll never make again. I felt invincible. I had my radio blasting in my car, my foot heavy on the gas, and laughed as an officer wagged his finger at me. I was untouchable. I tasted freedom and it was good. I had the whole world before me and I could do anything I wanted.
So do you. Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. It is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Freshman year in college is a milestone enjoyed by many, but while experiencing this freedom, I have some things I'd like you to consider.
Life isn't really about freedom, it's about responsibility. Responsibility is defined as the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization. Some decisions will be tougher than others, some will be life changing. No matter what college or university you choose to attend, there is a 25 percent chance that you or someone you know will be sexually assaulted. According to the National Institute of Justice, nine out of 10 victims of rape and sexual assault know their offender. Most men care about women and their safety, they are chivalrous and understanding, and ready to protect the women in their lives at any cost. A small handful however, uses the good intentions of every other man to mask their own intent of rape.
For decades, we have preached to young women to look out for each other. We have taught them to travel in groups, to watch their drinks, and to make sure their friends get home safely.
These things are happening, and yet, so is rape. The only way to stop rape is to stop the potential offenders, (both men and women), and make them accountable. This is where responsibility comes in. We live in a world where we are taught that morals are subjective; if it is "right for you" it is "your business" and not mine. The truth is morals and the law itself is very objective. The law clearly defines rape. It is not based on opinion, but rather hard facts.
The highest risk for sexual assault is within the first two years of college, particularly the first few months of school. Especially during this time, we need you to be vigilant, to educate yourself about consent, and to be willing to speak up when you see something that doesn't seem right. This is a responsibility that comes with freedom. I have sat in the emergency room on countless occasions, helping women who have been raped. It is a scary, life altering crisis that no one should have to go through. If we work together to stop violence before it starts, perhaps this fall will be different.
If I were to give any advice for that amazing first year of college, it would be this: Enjoy your new freedom and understand your responsibilities. Don't be afraid to speak up when you see something that is wrong. Courage is willingness to confront fear, or intimidation, and can be very freeing. Trust your instincts. If you feel that a situation is wrong, it probably is. Have fun. College is an amazing experience filled with opportunities. Know that there is a right and a wrong, and don't be afraid to be a champion for others.
And last, never laugh when a cop wags his finger at you.
Program Supervisor/Prevention Education Coordinator
Support Within Reach
403 4th Street NW Suite 140
Bemidji, MN 56601