If you told me in college, I’d be a professional college speaker, I might have believed you. If you had told me one of my topics would be the intersection of alcohol, blackouts, consent and sexual assault, I would definitely not have believed you. But here I am, speaking to countless students across the country about the environments that are created when alcohol and people come together, and the possible outcomes that might happen. Why? Because they happened to me.
I consider myself a storyteller. So naturally I share my own stories in keynotes. I feel like it’s the best way to connect with audiences that are usually attending a mandatory alcohol or sexual assault prevention speaker. For about four years I’ve been sharing my keynote A Night to Forget: The Intersection of Blackouts and Consent. After the keynote I usually have students coming up to me and sharing their similar experiences, sharing their own stories with me. Over this time, I’ve really been struck by the following:
- I’m continually impressed by the work that has been done to make these conversations happen. Recently I spoke to members of the US Army and the civilians that help operate one of their bases, and I was talking with a high ranking official and he stated that he’s ok that the trajectory of reports is on the rise – because he believes that is an indicator that people know how to report and they also feel comfortable reporting. I agree with this philosophy. While we both wholeheartedly agree that one report is still one too many, the fact that we’re having these conversations and people know how to report is a step in the right direction. Too often I hear that students on campus don’t report, especially if they’re concerned it would get their organization or another organization in trouble. We need to be ok with reports, because it means people are getting the help and support they need, and others are being held accountable for their actions.
- I’d love to be out of a job. I know a few other speakers that would also love to never have to share our stories or keynotes again. We’d love for college and university campuses to be the safest place for young men and women. But until that happens we will continue to be brave enough to have the conversations that matter.
- Being vulnerable and sharing my story has impacted me in countless ways. I had no idea the weight that would be lifted when I shared my story. And now knowing and interacting with others that have similar stories has made me not feel as alone. There’s power in that.
- We all have a story to tell, or a friend who has been impacted by blacking out, or worse, having been sexually assaulted. The most important thing we can do is listen, believe, and thank them for sharing with you. Too often people try to solve a problem or interject our own thoughts and opinions. This is not that time; you’re not in class being called on by the instructor.
It is my hope that we can continue to make our environments a safe place for all who step foot on campus, because that’s what they should be. It is my hope we continue to engage with each other in meaningful ways, because that’s where we create bonds and memories for the rest of our lives. It is my hope that we believe those who share their stories, because that’s bravery in action.
I look forward to a day when I don’t have to share my story anymore, but until then I’ll continue to be brave enough to have a conversation that matters.