After submitting a speech draft and auditioning it live, I was selected as the Student Speaker for the Afternoon Commencement for Bridgewater State University’s class of 2015! It was a great way to end my education at BSU, and although I was very sick during the ceremony, I’m told no one could tell.
My speech’s selling point is also it’s most controversial point. My college has experienced bad press recently because survivors of sexual abuse and violence have come forward with their stories and experiences in order to obtain safety and justice. I am proud of my University’s efforts to teach consent and to support these survivors and victims, but many community members are not as open in their approach to the topics because of how it reflects on the campus community. While the social-justice oriented campus body screams for change and open dialogue, the some attempt to sweep these issues under the rug in the hopes of preserving an unrealistic ideal of a University that is plagued with these issues as any school is.
Silence, I have found, is the greatest perpetrator of sexual abuse. It tells victims not to speak and abusers that they can get away with it, so long as the victim is silenced. But Bridgewater made a bold choice and selected my speech, which focuses on my experiences in Cambodia speaking to a prostitute and the Western academic who engaged in an unequal relationship with her. In a way, I was able to speak to my campus’ recent issues regarding sexual violence and responsibility toward other humans, about how power and opportunity can be used for good or for bad and that we each, upon receiving a diploma, had a complicated, adult choice to make.
I was proud to share this story, at this moment, in this time in BSU history. I am grateful to everyone who helped me get to this moment, especially John Winters and Prof. Jason Edwards.