Isabel Dubert, Contributing Writer
Human nature, being what it is, inclines us to love things and use people although we know the opposite is what we were designed for and the way we find fulfillment. For millennia, sexual violence of all sorts has been decried as one of the great evils of society, and yet it is still here with us, present in every culture of the world. It is an issue that we must deal with, particularly in our community here at the University of Dallas.
Emerson observed that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Talking an issue to death is a kind of foolish consistency, accomplishing nothing while encouraging a penchant for gossip. Truth be told, people love scandal, but it should be the last reason we are discussing a moral issue such as this one. Our preoccupation with the cause of such an injustice and with attempts to fix it distracts us.
We know that we are part of a culture that objectifies women in media, entertainment and fashion, overtly and unashamedly. So instead of blaming others and medicating symptoms when sexual violence occurs, we should focus on how to counteract this individualistic and narcissistic culture
In Evan Hierholzer’s Sept. 3 article in The University News, John Plotts, vice president for enrollment and student affairs, stated that UD’s compliance with recent legislation “is not only a legal matter but a moral one as well.” In other words, as a Catholic university, part of the Body of Christ, we have a moral responsibility to God and to each other to live out our calling as children of God.
As a result, when addressing the issue of sexual violence, we must admit that blaming others will not solve any problems. We must approach the circumstances without prejudice and without the desire for retribution and strive even more tirelessly to create a positive UD culture and community.
Recently the Office of Student Life, headed by Dore Madere, “launched a campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses.” She emphasized that a safe environment at UD “must be maintained and encouraged by the student body” and that such an environment would require “looking out for others … [being] cautious and [realizing] that you are accountable for your actions.” Madere also reminded the student body of the need for “common sense and self-control” in all circumstances.
Futhermore, according to Brian Ahern’s article in the last issue of The University News, “Plotts remains positive that UD students’ moral compasses are the greatest forces for crime prevention on campus.” This is high praise; let us try to live up to it.
But how? Obama’s acts of legislation and awareness campaigns focus on the injustice of sexual violence and are often reactive instead of proactive. They depict a sexual war and make enemies of men and women – brothers and sisters who should be allies. We were designed to complement one another in a divine plan. This is the trap that rational people in a predominantly faithless culture have fallen into by trying to assign blame.
They have overlooked a better solution to the problem – that we “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2). This “renewal of mind” allows us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and as human beings responsible for each other. With this kind of mentality, we will be able to discover a philosophy by which we can live. If we can focus on the inherent power of combined love and fidelity, there will be no room for sexual violence at UD.
Combating sexual violence will not end it; let us instead foster attitudes that will make sexual harassment nonexistent on the UD campus. And let us do it in a grace-filled way.
I propose that we start a UD chapter of the Love & Fidelity Network or develop our own homegrown version. This network is proactively dedicated to “a humane and holistic vision of sexuality.” Luke Foster, a junior at Columbia University, was involved with the Love & Fidelity Network this past summer and wrote about his experience for the popular blog First Things. Please read Foster’s article and visit the Love & Fidelity website by capturing the barcodes at the end of this article with your smartphone.
We ought not to sweep this issue under the rug because we do not hear about it every day.
“One of the things I’m scared about is sexual violence not being taken seriously. I’m a transfer student; I was at A&M, and things like this were often in the paper. The university was always talking about it. This is a platform for sexual violence to be examined. And that’s why this article shouldn’t go away,” said senior Lily Ramsay.
As students at UD we aspire to high standards of moral virtue. Our communal responsibility is to address this issue in the right way and for the right reasons. So often we have heard that women must have self-respect and that men must be responsible; while these are true statements, they are only half of the story. Men, too, must have self-respect, and women, responsibility. Ephesians reminds us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21).
“I like that verse, ‘walk in a manner worthy of the call that you have received’” (Eph. 4:1), said junior Eleanor Carrano.
This is a call for self-respect as well as mutual respect “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3).
This is not a pathetic campaign to eradicate violence, but a call to unity and to compassion. We want UD to be a place where, if this sort of thing happens, the perpetrator can find forgiveness and show repentance, and the victim can find reconciliation and show forgiveness.
As a Catholic university, let us lead the way in modeling a renewal of mind. Let us bravely develop a definite and practical plan of action to honor and live in love and fidelity in a world that has forgotten what those words mean. And that is what will truly change the lives of the people in this community.