Senior Ariel Krietzman stood outside all day Thursday and burned to a crisp in the sun, but did not notice. She was there to raise awareness and conversation about sexual assault. She wore a tank top and shorts and carried a big bag of markers and a cardboard sign that read, “How are you affected by sexual assault?”
Whether by-passers signed or passed, they were inevitably affected by her performance.
I walked out of the library and saw her, sign raised above her head, blocking the sun’s rays, covered in blue, red, black, and green.
My curiosity peaked. I asked if she stood for the assaults that have occurred recently. She hesitated and took her sign down, tossed me a marker and said, “Write what it means to you first.” As I wrote from the top of her inner thigh down her leg to her ankle, she teased me that I was getting frisky. I said the occasion called for it.
She explained to me as I wrote that there is not enough conversation on campus and that the assaults of last term are “prime examples of prevalence.” She continued, “It is a much more systemic problem than people care to realize. Our society accepts sexual assault as part of life.”
I considered this. I considered my friends and myself. I considered that one in four women in college is sexually assaulted.
I snapped the cap back on the marker, as sophomore Liz Picurro joined us on the sidewalk. I asked how she is affected. She said, “It’s good to get it out. It’s everybody’s problem.”
The consequences for sexual assault are blurry, beginning with fault. How does it happen? Is it the promiscuously short skirt or the alcohol that serves to release stress each weekend after an intense five days of work?
The Grievance Panel addresses “everyone’s problem.” It is composed of three students, three staff and three faculty members. These nine determine who is at fault and their punishment.
Krietzman stood solo, accepting that sexual assault affects her. By the end of the day, her entire body was covered with water-soluble statements expressing what sexual assault means to this community. She was a living Grievance Panel, composed of countless voices that were able to “get out” onto Krietzman what they have not been able to say before.
I applaud her ability to stand as a memorial for those who have been abused and harmed. I applaud her courage to expose herself by helping others. She reminded me, “Your liberation is bound up in mine.”
For more information about sexual assault, visit joyfulheartfoundation.org.