Why I Volunteer: Because I Shouldn't Have to Be Lucky

Tess Dawkins has volunteered in the office at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands since May 2014. She has donated over 200 hours of volunteer time in the past year and is the Volunteer of the Quarter for April-June 2015. Tess is a senior at the University of South Carolina & the South Carolina Honors College and a research assistant at the Institute for Mind & Brain. She plans to attend graduate school to pursue her goals of educating youth on sexual health & sexual violence prevention. 

I am not a survivor. I have no tragedies lurking in my past, no trauma that I am struggling to overcome. I have been protected and sheltered from the evils life has to offer.

I have been lucky.

I have been lucky, but others have not.  Not the family friend who confessed his first sexual experience was involuntary. Not the classmate who realized she had been roofied at a party. Not the neighbor who attempted suicide because of what had been done to her. Not the ten percent of South Carolina high school students who reported being forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to. 

Sexual assault is real. It is prevalent. And it can happen to anyone. It is not a joke, not a lie, not an issue for only females/drinkers/inner city residents. But still we insist on treating it like it doesn’t matter or it’s something to be expected.  We doubt survivors who come forward, claiming their stories are lies. We make threats on Youtube channels of female pundits we dislike, telling them they ought to be raped. We laugh at failure by telling someone “that thing raped you, man.” We lambast people who were assaulted in “skimpy” clothing, blaming them for the actions of their assailants.

We teach our kids not to go out alone at night, to never leave their drinks unattended, to walk with keys between their fingers. But do we teach our children not to rape? Do we teach them how to communicate with each other? Do our children even know what consent means?

This is why I volunteer. This is why I work with programs designed to educate others about this issue. This is why I help create ways to teach children about healthy relationships. This is why I do my best to support survivors who might be otherwise ignored, scoffed at, or doubted. Someone has to.  We have to.

This is a problem that touches everyone. This is a problem that can be solved, if we are only willing to try.

I shouldn’t have to consider myself lucky.