Zach St. Clair is a recently graduated alumnus of Auburn. He is a part of the May 2016 graduating class.
Sexual assault happens on a daily basis, even in our most respected communities.
Sexual assault is sometimes a confusing topic because it can be tricky to decide what constitutes inappropriate behavior.
I have a lot of friends who are girls, so when we joke or talk about things, sometimes I have to be careful with how I phrase our conversations so I don’t degrade them or lower their respect for themselves (accidentally) through friendly jesting.
Therefore, comments that I freely make to my guy friends might not be as appropriate around my female friends.
However, when I hang out or go downtown with mostly girls, they all know that I’m “big brother” for the night and will take care of them.
I make it a point to look after them throughout the night. They know they can trust me, and I am proud to be that kind of friend.
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Some of my friends have told me stories of times they’ve been sexually assaulted. It takes a special kind of friendship and courage to speak about these kinds of issues —most of us try to forget them and never want to deal with them again. Remembering these incidents, trying to work through what you did or didn’t do to stop them and reliving the nightmare can be very stressful for anybody. I do my best to listen to these stories and comfort those who still need closure.
I have even been a witness to sexual assault on Auburn University’s campus this very year. During my four years as an undergraduate, I have seen men, who do not know my female friends, grab them inappropriately right before my eyes.
The most recent occasion occurred on a Tuesday night this past summer at a bar here in Auburn.
My friends and I were leaving the bar after a casual, quiet night of drinking; however, some obnoxious guy and his friend had to see to it that we weren’t allowed to have a perfect evening.
I’ll spare you the details of our encounter with the two college-age males (calling them “men” seems improper) or how much I wanted to beat some common sense into them, but we left the bar after consulting bouncers and police officers who were right next to us when the situation occurred.
After that fiasco, and having the two creeps kicked out of the bar, we attempted to compose ourselves at Little Italy’s before continuing home.
I was shell-shocked at the restaurant. I was furious. I could not understand why this punk — this immature child who I could easily have kicked to the curb—felt like he was allowed to touch my friends inappropriately.
Both the girls I was with are older than me, which made it feel even more disgusting — these were grown women, not ditsy and flirtatious undergraduates. And the more I thought about it, the more my stomach sank. My body had adrenaline pulsing through it as we sat waiting for our food.
My friend tried to keep reassuring me, “It’s fine, it’s ok. You did the right thing. It happens, it’s fine …”
It’s fine? No, it is definitely is not fine, and it definitely does not happen to my friends—not when I’m around. I’m 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, and I have worked for two different bars in Auburn as a bouncer. I can handle my own creeps, and I also know the policy at these places.
Most of the people who I worked with at these bars are amazing coworkers and managers, and I respect them for having procedures and training in place for their bouncers to prevent terrible situations like this from happening.
To be fair, I played sports in high-school and have been in a locker room after practice or after a game.
There is for sure some vulgar comments and joking around. Guys talk about immature things and harass one another as friends.
We say things that are maybe inappropriate for our parents’ dinner table, but never anything like that.
I even joined a fraternity in college and never heard someone bragging about sexual assault.
If we did hear someone cross a line, we called that guy out and embarrassed him for being so weird. (At our weekly chapter meetings, we even have a portion where we can embarrass guys that were maybe extra-clingy to their dates or really sloppy during our socials … all in good fun and in the spirit of brotherhood, of course.)
It happens … give me a break. Is that what I’m supposed to tell my daughter? If I have a little girl of my own, is that what she’s supposed to settle for? “Oh, sorry, sweetie, boys will be boys…it happens. That’s locker room talk.”
You have got to be joking. When did we as men settle for this?
Have we always held ourselves to such low standards?
Because my father, his father, and all of my uncles definitely do not talk like that, nor do they behave like animals.
I want all young men to know that we cannot allow this to be our future.
We cannot hold ourselves to such low standards as to think this is ok. We are better than this.
If we do not speak up and take action against this, we are creating a culture.
A culture, whether you realize its sinister effects or not, will lead to things like date rape, violence, and sexual assault.
Things like talking about women inappropriately, shaming them for unnecessary reasons, or even excusing boys’ disgusting behavior allows this kind of culture to form.
You are subconsciously approving that kind of behavior.
You are allowing them to get away with it.
You are creating the twenty-year-old who grabbed my friends.
You are creating Brock Turners.
You are creating the problem.
It’s not locker-room talk, it’s not boys being boys, and it is not fine.
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