Rehearsal of the Vagina Monologues takes place on a crisp, cool Sunday night in Judd
Gymnasium. Tables are sprinkled around the room with one too many foldable chairs at some, making sure everyone was included. Vagina Monologues has been a part of Springfield College for 15 years nowand is one of the most anticipated performances put on every February.
Dozens of spirited young women of the Springfield College community all gather together as a unit to shine light on women’s empowerment. From seniors to first years, each woman engages in such important discussions about uplifting each other and being there for one another.
There in the middle of it all stands sophomore Tyler Polansky.
Polansky is a New Jersey native who is majoring in Psychology and is an active member on the Springfield College campus. This year is Polansky’s first year in Vagina Monologues and it means much more to her than just having a part in a show. Polansky emphasized the importance of the show by saying, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I can truly express who I am as a woman without being judged…In a world where women are fighting to have their voices heard, it feels so good to speak out and speak freely.”
Throughout the last couple of months, everywhere you look, women have been using their voices loud and clear. Speaking out against sexual violence all over the world has been in the spotlight after being hidden in the dark. TIME Magazine recently named their Person of the Year, The Silence Breakers. The Silence Breakers are women that have experienced sexual violence and are giving other women the courage to speak out. From resignations of senators to the firing of entertainment workers, consequences are finally being put into place. The strength, courage and voices of all these women and the men backing up these women are being heard. It gives people who are too scared to come out and say something the platform to do so.
Polansky is not only involved in women’s rights through Vagina Monologues, but SAVE as
well. SAVE, Students Against Violence Everywhere, is a club on campus that sponsors a variety of events. It encourages not only women but everyone to feel confident in themselves, encourage each other, and end all kinds of violence towards any person(s). Polansky’s new role as President gives her the opportunity to be able to build the program by spreading the mission, bringing more awareness, and coming up with more funding to strengthen the club.
Part of Polansky’s strength comes from her grandmother, Joanne Mainardi. Polansky emotionally brings up the strong bond that she shares with her grandmother. Mainardi helped her learn so much from not letting people get in her way to being someone Polansky aspires to be. “She’s very big on inspiring people in a way that makes them grow [and] shows them their potential…” Polansky said. “She always says this quote that goes: ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s learning to dance in the rain.’”
Polansky comes to her strengths and power from a place of personal pain. She briefly shared the stories of her painful struggles when she was raped during her junior year of high school and then again during her freshman year of college.
“I blamed myself,” Polansky stated. “I was confused, I was violated, I was hurt. I really can’t even explain the feeling that I felt because it was so… numbing. It took me awhile to get out of that state. I had this dark cloud in front of me that I couldn’t see past.”
The emotions that Polansky felt are not uncommon. According to NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), one in five women are sexually assaulted while attending college, while according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), one out of every six American women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
Polansky also had to deal with the lack of support from her foundation, her parents. Polansky is extremely close with both of her parents who do love her dearly. However, when faced with a new and painful situation like this one, it can be difficult to hear this happen to their own daughter. After her first assault, they questioned her sense of what really happened. She detailed the experience by saying, “I had to advocate for my own recovery and it wasn’t easy, especially when you’re in such a dark hole…. Just trying to get my parents to back me up was extremely difficult.”
Polansky grew a sense of responsibility. She had to mend her own wounds through a new and difficult time in her life. Still, with all of the pain that she went through, she never gave up on herself.
From the outside, some may consider her as just another victim of sexual violence. However, when looking at Tyler Polansky, you cannot see a victim but rather someone with a hard past that she is trying to mend by not only helping herself, but others. She is a survivor.
The people around her can vouch for how special Polansky really is. Polansky’s roommate, Katie Adams, reflected on her spirit by saying, “Tyler and I honestly have so much fun living with each other. We’re so odd and always down for dance parties or (a) sing-a-long session.” Her positive spirit and personality is definitely one that can light up any room.
Her fellow SAVE e-board member and friend Emma Wertz added to that by stating, “…Tyler is one of those people that is so genuine and authentic and if you get the chance to really connect with her, you are very fortunate…”
Her passion for her work with Title IX and desire to help people who have endured sexual violence is not only honorable, but selfless. Sue Nowlan, Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX coordinator, emphasized this by saying, “Tyler brings her passion to the campus community… She uses her own experiences to educate and support her peers.”
Dealing with something as hard and painful as someone taking physical and emotional advantage of you takes a lot of courage and strength. “I don’t want to say I’m thankful for what I’ve gone through,” Polansky said, “but if it wasn’t for what I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t be the person I am today….I wouldn’t want to go into psychology and I wouldn’t be so passionate about all of this.”
Everyone in their lifetime goes through struggles and heartbreak which they do not understand at the time. Later, as they continue to learn and understand, life opens up a new path that some people would have never imagined taking before.
Tyler Polansky embodies what it means to take something painful and use it as a vehicle for personal growth and the improvement of society. She is a beautiful, fearless young woman who can really change the way you view things. Through it all, she did not wait for her storm to pass. Instead, she took her grandmother’s advice and learned to dance in the rain.