With the Kavanagh case dominating the news, many social media fanatics have taken to Twitter and Facebook to debate the "hierarchy of sexual misconduct." This is the idea that certain forms of sexual assault are worse than others. For instance, most people classify rape as being on the top of the hierarchy because it is the "worst" form of sexual assault. The idea of a hierarchy of sexual violence leads to a toxic culture of survivors dismissing their trauma and experiences. Additionally, this can cause perpetrators to justify their actions by saying, "I'm still a good person. It's not like I raped her/him/they."
This type of thinking is why we live in a world where perpetrators can become the president of the United States.
Even with Terry Crews and over 265 gymnasts coming forward about their sexual assaults that included groping, many people still do not see that form of assault as a "big deal." However, being groped by a stranger at a bar or someone who you trust is a very traumatizing experience. These types of experiences need to be seen as just as serious as any other type of sexual assault because for the person being assaulted, this has a lasting impact on their lives.
Commonly, I hear people make comments about how the impact of rape is more detrimental than other forms of assault. Specifically, they will point out that a rape can cause an unwanted pregnancy, which would have a lasting impact that others can see. However, no matter what type of sexual violence occurs, trauma arises for the survivor. For some people, PTSD is developed, other people get anxiety and depression, some start to have suicidal thoughts, and yes, others may get pregnant. Even if a survivor does not have this sort of reaction, or if they are not clinically diagnosed with some sort of condition following their assault, that does not take away how horrible the sexual violence was in the moment of the assault. Long-term effects of sexual assault look different for everyone.
No matter what type of sexual assault occurs, it is still sexual assault! It does not matter how long it lasted or what form of assault it was. No assault should be tolerated on college campuses, in a workplace, or in the realm of politics. Perpetrators need to be held accountable for their actions. Most importantly, the mindsets of the American people need to change.