Every experience deserves a platform

In the wake of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Fresno State is hosting an event Wednesday night featuring speaker Tim Mousseau, who is a sexual assault survivor-turned-speaker who promotes the idea of “reframing” the rape narrative.

There are concerns amongst students with featuring Mousseau as the event’s keynote speaker, which involves issues of diversity and representation in regards to sexual assault.

Some students are criticizing Associated Students Inc,. for not taking the opportunity to host a more diverse speaker – a speaker outside of the box of a white male.

While the concerns of students demanding diversity are completely valid, allowing Mousseau to tell his story as they’ve experienced them shines the light onto a group underrepresented in the traditional conversation about sexual assault – the 1 in 6 men every year who are affected by sexual assault.

But when do things stop being about diversity and representation and more about storytelling? How do we, as a university of diverse students, address the needs of all students in a fashion that encompasses equally diverse human experiences?

We should not invalidate Mousseau’s experience with sexual assault just because he doesn’t fit the diversity standard for all students.

Idealistically, if the university could host every event to fit every kind of student with every kind of experience, it probably would.

However, the concerns expressed by student leaders and administrators could also open opportunities for change in regards to future guest speakers. It is brave for people of privilege to step forward and act as catalysts for change and address the demand for diversity on campus.

University administrators and organizations should facilitate events that address the diverse needs of all students – and offer students the ability to attend events and see themselves in the speakers spearheading them.

But when it comes to issues as overarching as rape and sexual assault, this event could be the one that causes men who have been affected by such issues to come forward and share their experiences as a means to eventually reach a point of healing.

In 2014, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro made it a priority to require all students to complete a sexual assault awareness program prior to registering for classes. From that point on, the university has hosted several events that bring sexual assault and abuse to the foreground.

When students demand or enunciate the need for these events, the university hears our calls and a response often follows.

It is the responsibility of students and administrators to be aware of representation amongst events catered to students. We should treat this event as a means to reach those underrepresented and as a further means to eradicate the shame around males affected by sexual abuse or assault.

Diversity is one third of Fresno State University’s tagline and, as students, we should be demanding diverse representation in all ways – through speakers, staff members and student awareness.

Diverse representations of experience are important, but so is facilitating a safe space for all of those who might have experienced assault.