'Pranks' concerning sexual assault do not humor-they harm

“Man is not much beside the great birds and beasts. Though they’re not as intelligent as we who kill them, they are more noble and more able. I would rather be that beast down there in the darkness of the sea.”
A few weeks ago in my history of animation class, we had the opportunity to view a gorgeous short film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and since then I have been ruminating about the film here and there, with most of my thoughts converging on the beauty of his statement.
This is not the first time I have heard this sentiment, albeit a majority of similar claims were about common land animals like the dog. Regardless, I am inclined to solemnly believe animals are nobler than humans, particularly after viewing what happened on the quad last week.
The night before the incident, I had been walking to the library, full of my usual idealistic spunk that ensues after I gulp down a strong cup of coffee and subsequently promise to be the most productive student ever. Needless to say, I was curious when I didn’t just see the dark forest green that blended the lawn framing the steps in front of the library.
The lamps framing the outside of the building were shining down on a bunch of small green, blue and white flags, which I initially thought to be associated with some type of sporting event.
However, I was genuinely happy when I saw someone was drawing awareness to the fact that one in four girls and one in six guys would be sexually assaulted while attending university by placing a sign stating this in front of the flags.
In light of the recent information coming out of the military and American culture as a whole about sexual assault, UNCA approaching an issue that all too often tends to lurk in the dark filled me with hope this was going to be a resolute change — people on campus were going to become genuinely more aware and conscientious about this topic.
When I read on my phone the following day that someone had decorated the quad sidewalk with several phalli alongside expressions like, “squeeze don’t tease” and “a little dick goes a long way,” I became really upset.
Someone once stated a valuable method to help victims of sexual abuse cope with what happened to them has been to tell them not to think about the experience compulsively, but to place it in a mental “safe,” where the memory of the experience is only to be opened selectively.
If someone who had undergone such an experience walked by and saw these two juxtaposing sights, their safe would have been flung open and the torrent of devastating and highly emotional feelings that accompany such trauma would spill out.
I heard that this “prank” elicited an apology also written in chalk on the quad shortly thereafter, in which it was stated that it was a genuine misunderstanding, intended as nothing more than an April Fools’ Day joke.
I hope this is the truth and this level of calloused insensitivity is not being nurtured to fester like it possibly could be. As a species, I’d like to think we’re becoming more progressive and compassionate to each other, but after incidents like this, I don’t know.
Compassion might just be better off left to the birds and the beasts.
 This editorial was originally published in The Blue Banner