This evening, I participated in a candlelight march on Brandeis campus to Take Back the Night.
Right as we started, when we all went around the circle to say why we had come to the march, all I could think of to say is that that was where I needed to be. And I'm incredibly glad that I did decide to go. I have never been sexually assaulted myself, but I honestly believe there is no one on this earth who can say that they don't know anyone who's been sexually assaulted. Before tonight, I would have said this: not that I did not know anyone who had been sexually assaulted, but that I had not known anyone who had been willing to trust me with their story.
I am truly awed by the courage and determination of the people that did speak over the course of the march, and I am honored to have been a part of that group, to have been accepted as a part of it and trusted with those stories. Though every word that I heard tonight was worth hearing, I will share but one of those stories here, for only my own story is mine to tell.
As a junior, I went to study abroad in Japan. (My time in Japan is chronicled in an earlier blog of mine.) Commuting - in my case to and from school - is an almost unavoidable part of life in Japan, and so it was for me as well. Returning to my host family's home from school meant a forty-minute train ride, followed by a fifteen-minute walk from the train station to that home. The only way to avoid that walk was to take the bus, an expenditure that I preferred to avoid.
And so I would walk. Fifteen to twenty minutes. Depending on what day it was, sometimes my class schedule would mean walking after sunset. The road was mostly unlit and usually completely deserted. And I would make that walk without hesitation, without fear. My host mother would say that I would be fine - and unsaid every time, that there were some people who wouldn't be. That even though I could walk that in safety, some people - had I been a young woman, rather than a young man, perhaps? - could not count on being safe in such conditions.
My story is a story of nothing happening. Of making that walk in safety, three or more times a week for seven months of my life. And at the end of the march, as I shared that story, the only thing I could think of to say is this: I went this evening so that I could do something. So that I could help in some small way to build a world where everyone can make that walk in safety and without fear.