Letter to the editor: Dividing community

Dear editor,

My name is Sophia Stephens, an undergraduate student at Washington State University with multiple community positions: TA, writing consultant and former Orientation Counselor.

I found Christopher Gambino’s column, “Protecting Community,” highly problematic. This is a very thinly veiled call for – let’s face it, women – to dress modestly as to not trigger morally reprehensible acts. This was written under the guise of “protecting” mentally ill individuals and the WSU community.

Mental illness can be a factor in certain violent/sexual behaviors, but mental illness does not excuse those behaviors, or mean we must accommodate them. Implying that mentally ill persons cannot control their behavior also suggests that these persons cannot be effectively treated by professionals and/or be a part of society – we must shape our behaviors around them because of their incapability, effectively dehumanizing them.

In vivo, or literally translated, “in life,” therapy is a highly effective regimen that assists individuals with addressing triggers, including sexual ones. This is done through monitored, controlled exposure with eventual progression to individual confrontation. I know this because I have done this therapy, albeit for very different reasons.

In short, mentally ill individuals are human beings who are capable of controlling, living with and recovering from their illnesses.

Gambino is perpetuating a culture of repressing dress (a non-sexual practice) in order to not incite inappropriate sexual responses. Is this how we shape a community, or is this how we divide it?

I believe that Gambino’s suggestion falls into the latter.