The Conversation On Sexual Assault Has A Class Issue

The Conversation On Sexual Assault Has A Class Issue

Who we aren't including in the conversation.
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The past few weeks, it has seemed like a floodgate has been opened regarding sexual assault in Hollywood, and more recently in Washington.

These stories center on powerful, well-known men who have abused their status and fame to silence their victims. From Harvey Weinstein to Roy Moore, it seems like America’s two most high-profile industries might finally be facing the scrutiny they have always deserved.

It certainly makes sense to focus on politics and entertainment because of the immense amount of power perpetrators of sexual violence yield in these fields, but the current conversation seems to be leaving out less high-profile industries that have issues with sexual violence.

While it is incredibly important to hold high-profile abusers accountable for their actions, we also need to recognize that most Americans simply don’t work in these industries, yet face many of the same issues.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, 25% of women and 10% of men in all industries face sexual harassment, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has found that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped within their lifetimes. If one simply searches #metoo on Twitter or Facebook, millions of people’s personal experiences with sexual violence pop up.

However, other than a few high profile cases, such as that of Brock Turner, the perpetrators of these crimes remain unnamed and go unpunished. According to RAINN, only about a third of cases are reported, and 994 out of 1000 of these reported cases will lead to a perpetrator going to jail. Because of this culture of silence, it is very difficult to have a conversation that discusses the specifics of who the victims and perpetrators are.

Part of this has to do with the fact that our media landscape tends to focus on a few sensationalized cases, generally of high-profile individuals, instead of exploring the average woman’s experience. It’s easier to focus our disgust on these specific cases, because they have a clear solution and because they involve people we recognize. We can fire them, not watch their shows anymore, etc.

We tend to pay less attention to victims who work in low-wage jobs and low-profile industries, though they are often the most vulnerable, because no such clear solutions exist in these cases. According to the National Women’s Law Center, low income jobs are worked primarily by women, and sexual harassment and assault in these fields tends to be especially unreported because workers are living paycheck to paycheck, and thus losing a job because of a sexual assault claim can literally have life or death consequences.

Furthermore, African American women, who statistically make less money than white women, tend to have higher rates of workplace sexual violence. As with many feminist issues, the fight against sexual assault has both a class and race issue. While it is difficult for any woman (or man) to come forward with these kinds of allegations, they are much more likely to be paid attention to if they have a platform, and they are much more likely to pursue legal or bureaucratic action if they have the means to hire a lawyer or publicly speak out against their workplace.

Not everyone who accuses someone with more systemic power than them of sexual violence is going to get a New York Times story published about them. That’s not the point. The point is that sharing one’s story on social media with a hashtag often feels like shouting into a void when the conversation is so vast and there is no clear focus on a solution. Maybe the high profile cases will lead to some sort of legislative or social push against sexual violence. The importance, however, is to remember the countless “#metoo”s which never receive media attention.

There has to be a conscious effort, in the real world and not on social media, to give victims a path to justice without compromising their financial safety net.

No one should have to choose between their livelihood and their dignity, and the fact that we live in a country where many face this choice is indicative that we really need to change how we think about sexual violence as a culture.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Please, If You're Somehow Still Using The 'R Word'— Leave That Habit In 2018

Come on guys, its 2018. Google a new word.

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Maybe it was because I witnessed two boys get in trouble in elementary school for using this word as an insult.

Maybe it's because I fell in love with a thing called Camp Able. Maybe it's because one of my best friends is a special ed major. Or maybe it's because I try to be a decent human being. I do not use the R word.

Until this past semester, I hadn't really heard anyone use it often despite one encounter in 6th grade. Most of my best friends I have met while serving at places like Camp Able or Camp Bratton Green where summers are dedicated to people with diverse-abilities. I think having been surrounded with like-minded people for so long made me forget that some people still use it as an expression.

Let me tell you, it's annoying.

The word itself has been brushed off even in a "scientific" sense. It means to be slowed down, but it has stretched far beyond that meaning and has turned into an insult.

It's an insult of comparison.

Like any word, the power behind it is given by the user and most times, the user uses it to demean another person. It's like when you hear someone say "that's gay."

Like, what? Why is that term being used in a derogatory sense?

Why is someone's sexuality an insult? Hearing someone use the R-word physically makes me cringe and tense up. It makes me wonder what truly goes on in someone's mind. People will argue back that it's "just a word" and to "chill out," but if it was just a word, why not use something else?

There is a whole world full of vocabulary waiting to be used and you're using something that offends a whole community. Just because you don't care, it does not mean it shouldn't matter. Just use a different word and avoid hurting a person's feeling, it really is just that simple.

There is not a good enough reason to use it.

I volunteer at two summer camps: Camp Bratton Green and Camp Able. If you know me, I talk nonstop about the two. More realistically, if you know me, it's probably because I met you through one of the two. Even before I was introduced to the love at Camp Able, I still knew that this was a word not to use and it never crossed my mind to think of it.

The history behind the R-word goes back to describe people with disabilities but because of the quick slang pick up it was sort of demoted from the psychology world. Comparing someone or something that is negative to a word that you could easily avoid speaks volumes about who you are as a person.

The word is a word, but it is subjective in its meaning and in its background.

Just stop using it.

A List of Objective Words/Phrases to Use:

Fool/Foolish

Blockhead

Nincompoop

Silly

Ludicrous

Dim-witted

Trivial

Naive

"A few beads short on the rosary"

"On crack or something"

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Emotional Confusion

A child who cuts, and a mothers plea.

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It's hard balancing life as a single mother, a student, and a freelancer, but it becomes harder when life hits you times three. While dealing with my own personal health issues, I also have a daughter who self harms. She is 12, to me still a baby, yet she is in a pain that I cannot take away from her. A pain that I cannot heal. A pain that even she doesn't quite understand.

I walk on eggshells. I try to be firm and still the parent I have always been to her, but the truth is I am worried. What if something I say triggers her to want to take a blade and cut her arms. I don't want to coddle her, because I know the world doesn't care as much as I do, but I also want to wrap her up in a blanket of comfort and hold her to my chest as if she was an infant. I want to protect her from the world, from herself and from eyes of those who do not understand.

And all the while, I don't understand.

I understand depression, anxiety, and even times not wanting to live, but cutting to release frustration I don't get. If only she can see the girl I see. Talented, beautiful, smart, funny and a joy to be around. Instead, all she sees are the words that jealous classmates and mean bullies put in her head. She believes that she is not worth wonderful things, or love, when she is the embodiment of love.

Everything I do is for her and her sisters, but I feel as if maybe I am not doing enough. When I'm next to her, talking to her, she's happy. There are nights she asks me to come to sleep with her. Where all I do is sit in her bed, writing or reading and watching her be at peace. Then the nights when I can't because my illness has me immobilized, she cuts.

Therapy is not working.

At times I fear it's making it worse. School and social activities only bring stress and mumbled words when she returns. She's so soft-spoken, I fear she's getting run over, she's so forgiving even when those have bullied her, she is the girl I wish I was at her age. But she doesn't see it.

How can I help her? How can I as her mother make her feel that she is safe with her self? Staying up and watching her is not always an option. So I'm patient, I'm strong for her, and I am still her mother. I want her to enter the world strong and able to handle whatever comes her way.

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