The purpose of this editorial is not for me to recount to you my experiences with harassment and violence during my study abroad in Morocco. It has been exhausting to sort through the details of each event for myself, let alone sort through them with you as an audience in mind, too. As we continue to stumble forward in our collective discussions of sexual assault and harassment, I feel that it is much more important for me to discuss the overwhelmingly frustrating interactions I have had with my abroad institution throughout my semester. The institution’s neglectful responses and policies, I believe, point to larger issues of how we talk about violence against women, trauma, and the idea of “culture”.
There are two fears that I have struggled with throughout this semester: the immediate fear caused by the traumatic experiences that I have had here, and the fear that I will be judged for voicing these experiences as “traumatic” to begin with. Even as I write this, I am overcome with the anxiety that what I am saying does not matter. It’s a never ending cycle of victim blaming, something so ingrained in my consciousness that it wasn’t until very recently- months into this program- that I was able to recognize as such. If we are to understand why this particular thought process that I have just described is so harmful, then we have to look more closely at the emotional damage that it leaves behind. In her essay, “The Illusion of Safety/The Safety of Illusion” Roxane Gay explores popular discussion of trauma and gender violence and makes the important point: “the illusion of safety is as frustrating as it is powerful.” We are never safe, even after we think the fear has left us. As Gay goes on to write, “we all have history. You can think you’re over your history. You can think the past is the past. And then something happens, often innocuous, that shows you how far you are from over it. The past is always with you.”