“When someone attempted to rape me my freshman year, I asked my college, Yale University, for help, but instead I was basically advised to keep quiet. I shouldn’t formally report the assault, I was told. Despite my clear and repeated ‘no’, school administrators cast the whole event as a misunderstanding among friends.
In short, I was told to be a good girl. And for four years, I listened.
Women everywhere are used to being told to accommodate those who wrong us. With family, friends, bosses, and partners, we must always be understanding and flexible, ready to dig deep into our well of second chances and generosity. We must never complain or make trouble.
Our devotion to this image of the good girl particularly infects our responses to survivors of sexual violence. As the media coverage of the Steubenville trial showed, those who seek justice are blamed for overreacting and ‘ruining the lives’ of their rapists. Because of our insistence on the femininity of victims, even male and genderqueer survivors are held to the good girl standard.
We can deconstruct this pressure to stay quiet, but it is very real and very powerful, and it benefits universities looking to avoid scandalous headlines for the sake of reputation, application rates, and alumni donations. I know too well how effective such silencing can be. Even after I had joined 15 classmates to file a Title IX complaint against my school, I stayed largely silent about my personal motivation. When I published an op-ed in my school paper about my experience, I did so anonymously, afraid to anger my assailant.” – Alexandra Brodsky