Content warning: The following article includes topics some readers may find triggering, including gender-based violence, sexual assault and death.
As I was swiping through a bunch of Instagram stories a little while before writing this, I came across one that linked to a post about Miya Marcano. This was the first time I had heard her name, but from just the slide that was in the story, I felt a dreadful need to find out more, so I opened the whole post. It included some beautiful pictures of her and some screenshots of tweets about how what happened to her is terrifying and more commonplace than many people would think.
The post stopped me in my tracks, honestly. It made me just sit there, lost in my thoughts, and then I went down a Google rabbit hole and searched her name, and now it has derailed whatever ambiguous idea I previously had for the topic of this article.
This isn’t the only piece of news like this that we’ve had recently. There’s been Gabby Petito, for one, and the updates on the murder of Sarah Everard in the U.K., for another. And those are only a couple out of God knows how many, whether they end up in police reports and news headlines or not.
I feel like this has been a frequent topic of conversation in my life recently. It’s come up in several of my classes and with my friends, and there’s of course all the news and social media coverage of it. And it’s never a topic that leaves anyone feeling good, but reading about Marcano affected me more deeply than any of the other times.
Because, like Marcano, I have also had a man who worked in the building I lived in who had access to my apartment should he have wanted it, unsolicitedly hitting on me and asking me out. So when I read about Marcano, I was struck, of course, by grief over yet another woman murdered by a man but also by a rekindling of the fear I had felt as I navigated my own situation.
After deflecting the advances and making my building manager aware of the situation so she could put a stop to it, I didn’t have a reason to think he would escalate the situation. But I also barely knew him, so neither did I have a reason to trust that he would not escalate the situation — especially because violence perpetrated by men toward women seems so pervasive that it kind of feels like luck of the draw whether I, my friends or any other woman will become subject to it.
It’s easy when hearing about Marcano or Petito or Everard or insert-lots-of-other-names to see my and other women’s place or potential place in this trend of ubiquitous, brutal violence. It’s easy to look at statistics and graphics about rape, sexual assault and harassment and to see myself fall into a category. And that, as if everything else wasn’t enough, also feels dehumanizing.
I wish I could write some call to action. Or some profound observations and criticisms about the mistreatment of and violence toward women. About how it’s not just gender but also class and race and the deep flaws in our justice system that impact how cases of gender violence like these are handled both legally and in the public eye. About how it’s not only women who are victims of gender violence, but people all along the spectrums of sex and gender. Those are all important to focus on.
But I don’t have a call to action or any profound observations and criticisms right now. I’m just scared. And sad.
I want peace. For myself. For all these murdered women and their loved ones. For every other woman who has been feeling or has ever felt the fear and heartbreak that I’ve been feeling recently. For every woman who has seen herself in the trend. I don’t know how that will be achieved, but I hope for it nonetheless.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can seek help from the following Hopkins-specific, local or national confidential resources: JHU Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) 24/7 Peer Crisis Support Hotline — (410) 516-7887; JHU 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline — (410) 516-7333; TurnAround Inc 24/7 Helpline — (443) 279-0379; Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline — 1 (800) 656-4673.
Sophia Lola is a senior from Brooklyn, N.Y. majoring in Writing Seminars. Her column explores personal growth, whether it comes an inch or a mile at a time.