Recently, many people have bravely come out in Hollywood and Politics with their stories of sexual assault and harassment. The accused have had a wide range of responses to the accusations from straight up denial or diminishing the accusation, to admitting to assaulting the victim. The American public has also had reactions to these accusations from complete disbelief to utter shock and support. However, the most dangerous belief that anyone can have is to not believe the victim at all. This is a major issue that affects society all together whether or not we realize it. Here are four reasons why sexual assault and harassment must be an everybody problem.
1. At Least One Person in our Life has Been a Victim of Sexual Assault
Whether we know of them or not, there is at least one person in our life who has been a victim of sexual assault and harassment. I can think of at least five people I know off the top of my head who have been sexually assaulted and harassed. If you don't know someone in your life that has, that does not mean it hasn't happened. It just means they have not felt like they can or ever will be able to share such traumatizing events from their life, or it could be that their abuser is still in their life. It is important to always be there for those we care about to discuss these injustices in a compassionate and non-judgmental, non-blaming manner. Listen actively, not passively, and give thoughtful responses to their emotions.For those who don't share keep an eye out for if someone has been acting out of character (shying away from physical advances), or if there are physical signs of abuse (bruising or scratches). It is our responsibility as their loved one to show this level of care.
2. At Least One Person we Don't Know has Been a Victim of Sexual Assault
We should care just as much about the victims we don't know as for those we do. They are human beings, just as we are. Equals on the playing field of life. Another way to think of this is in the sense of humanity as one big family. They are someones sibling, child, cousin, parent, or grandparent. Or maybe they don't have anyone left to look after them. So it is our job as their global family to look out for them.
3. The Lifelong Mental Trauma and PTSD Associated with Sexual Assault
Sexual assault and harassment is such a mentally degrading experience for people. They wonder if they could have done something to prevent it, or if they were really at fault for what happened to them. It is an experience that follows someone throughout life. Some people are able to grow past it, but some people are so heavily traumatized by their experience that it is difficult or even impossible to move past. Even if you move past the experience, that doesn't mean that you ever forget or that post-traumatic experiences can never occur. It just means they have learned to push that part of them to the back of their mind. This is such an important factor, as it affects the quality of a persons life and their mental and physical well being. Especially as mental health is slowly becoming as much a priority as physical health. If people are experiencing poor mental health it may affect their professional and personal relationships, and ability to function effectively in school and work. To push them away due to disbelief is to deny their personal struggles and experience, and may worsen their poor mental state.
4. Sexual Assault is Still Such a Prominent Issue Today
Even with campaigns and ads and civil rights marches we are still facing this problem. It is mainly because of the lack of consent teachings in sex ed classes in schools, parenting methods that teach young minds to objectify others and prescribe to gender normative ideas of sex, and the blatant disregard of the United States government for these serious issues. When I was growing up, I don't recall there ever being a huge discussion regarding consent in school. They mostly told us if we were going to have sex we should wear condoms or use birth control or abstain from sex entirely. Mind you, my school didn't offer free condoms to students (as far as I know). Then is the parenting prong of this problem. Young boys and girls are taught their "place" in society from a very young age based on gender norms. Women take care of the house and bare children and men are the breadwinners and the leader of the house. Of course this only accounts for male on female violence as the "weaker" sex, or male on male violence to assert a higher level of dominance. Then there is the government. We have politicians denying they committed atrocious acts on underage girls, and the governments evident dismissal to take action. We have people high up in government trying to remove Title IX protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses. We have a president that has been accused of misconduct as well! All this shows the grassroots is that this is not an issue that needs addressed, nor an issue that they should care about.