“I had no idea we were living in a rape culture.”
She’d been regaled with stories that haunted her childhood — stories of innocent girls being kidnapped, mercilessly abducted from their families in the comfort of their own home. Growing up, business administration junior Julia Freifeld sincerely thought the horrors and heartache of crime were confined only to distant news articles and random events.
But after about a year at Cal Poly, Freifeld realized the crimes didn’t just take place in the painted princess rooms of pigtailed girls or by nondescript bearded monsters — they actually took place quite regularly, in “regular” fashions, with seemingly regular people. People who knew each other. People who recycle and call their grandparents on Thanksgiving. People with friends, sisters, mothers and girlfriends.
In the wake of over a dozen campus sexual assaults, somehow all the details spiral out of consciousness and settle and attitudes begin to normalize, Freifeld said. “Are you okay?” becomes “What were you wearing?”
And Freifeld wouldn’t stand for it.
After getting involved as the marketing intern for Safer, the sexual assault prevention organization on campus, Freifeld felt inspired to share her thoughts on the topic.
She said she was glad that she “finally had the power on my campus and in the world to make a difference.”
Freifeld wrote an untitled song about the issue, with no idea that its reach would amass to over 13,000 views and 215 shares on Facebook.
“Honestly, I’m kind of dumbfounded by the whole thing,” she said. “It’s really been the most incredible thing that could have happened. Even just to reach one girl is so fulfilling.”
In the song, Freifeld weaves through the deeply isolating effects of sexual assault, and the ways in which survivors are made to feel foolish, or even at blame, for not being able to protect themselves.
“A lot of the perpetrators don’t think of themselves as criminals,” she said, “and the people who do realize (it), make excuses.”
Hello friends! I wrote a song recently about the difficult topic of sexual assault. My dear friend Sam Wilson was kind enough to film a video of me singing it. I would appreciate it if you would take a few minutes to check it out and if you like it please share it! Sexual assault is a hard but prevalent topic and I hope this video will touch and resonate with you. Thank you all so much!
Posted by Julia Beth Freifeld on Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Not just blamed, Freifeld said, but made a mockery of.
“People actually think of rape as a joke and never stop to think that what they’re doing might really be hurting someone,” she said.
Part of the issue, Freifeld said, lies within upbringing. People commit heinous crimes against women forget who they came from.
“The craziest thing, to me, is that every single person who’s assaulted another human being has a mother who brought them into this world,” she said.
It’s only been about two weeks since the release of her song, but within the first couple days, Freifeld said she’d received hundreds of encouraging messages from women praising her for her courage and strangers who wanted to share their stories with her who finally felt comfortable voicing their traumas out loud.
“Girls feel bad for wanting to report (it), or feel overdramatic or unable to control their emotions and I think that’s so sad,” she said. “If someone hurts you, you need to stand up for yourself.”
Freifeld was invited onto Matisyahu’s tour bus before the reggae/rap artist’s recent concert in San Luis Obispo, and played three of her songs for him, his manager and a producer. The producer and manager took down her contact info and emailed her later that night.
Seeing her song’s positive effect has inspired Freifeld to write even more, she said.
“I think that music is a form of poetry, but it’s a more emotional form because singing is so different from speaking,” she said. “It’s a different way to express thoughts.
Freifeld is in the process of changing her major from business to psychology in hopes of eventually getting a degree in social work to help victims of sexual assault.