When I enter a classroom in the beginning of the semester and look around, I always have the same initial thought, “Everyone in here has some common sense. I mean, most of us have taken college classes before, we’re all paying to be here, to educate ourselves, to elevate our lives for personal or professional reasons.” Thinking that way, I instantly connect all of us with a similar characteristic: “We’re all reasonable people, right?”
What do you mean by “reasonable”?
One of the problems with thinking this way is that I assume everyone has the same definition of a “reasonable person.” My definition is something like, “A person who is able to think critically about a topic, voice their opinions in a respectful and logical manner, and respond to a conflicting opinion with grace and tact.” As I write this out, I’m realizing that my definition might be a little far-fetched, and maybe I’m expecting too much from my peers? After all, I can’t say that I’ve always responded to an opposing opinion with “grace and tact.” As a matter of fact, I can be downright defensive and uncooperative, especially when it comes to conversations involving sexual assault.
There are some people in life that I know I can’t have an educated conversation with. People who are, in my opinion, unreasonable when it comes to their opinions and stances on certain issues. For example, I can’t discuss politics with my boss. Our viewpoints are a complete 180° from each other, we’re not going to convince one another to change where we stand, and nothing productive comes from the conversation because we’re both too passionate about our beliefs. In this instance, I avoid the topic. Let’s not create such a hostile work environment, right? To each their own. But if a conversation about sexual assault comes up, and I hear something like, “Well, she shouldn’t have been drinking so much at that party,” or, “He’s too young to serve any time in jail; let’s not ruin two lives because of this,” or “Why did she leave with him if she didn’t want to sleep with him?” or “Everyone knows not to walk around by yourself at night; she should have known better,” I get absolutely furious. The people who say and whole-heartedly believe things like that are not, in my opinion, reasonable. So, I will do everything in my power to talk AT you, educate you, and make you see why you’re comments or questions are inappropriate and unhelpful. Is any of this fair?
It’s a real issue
I came across this article yesterday and had a hard time processing it. One of the major reasons why sexual assault and/or rape cases never get prosecuted is because of lack of evidence; it ends up being a matter of “he said / she said” and no one is able to find the truth. With this case, a toddler was molested by a 16-year old teenager, it was recorded on video, and the perpetrator served 2 years in juvenile detention and county jail. Can we, as reasonable people, agree that this is ludicrous? If jail time isn’t the answer, then what is?Some people think that he should serve jail time, and others think that he should be sent to a rehabilitation center. If you have one of those opinions, or some other idea that holds him accountable for his actions, I can have a healthy conversation with you. But if you think that he should be free, has already served his time for this crime, or that justice has been served, our conversation may not be so productive.
Sexual assault is considered a “hot button” topic because of the personal nature of the crime and how it’s only now gaining some massive public media attention. There are a lot of cultural norms that are slowly shifting to make the awareness (yes, I said awareness) of sexual assault grow. From college campuses, to military bases, to your own living room during the Superbowl, the word is getting out. So, as reasonable people looking to gain higher education in a classroom together, are we able to agree that sexual assault is an actual problem? That we not only need to be aware of it, but need to do something about it?