It's Never Too Late To Speak Up

It's Never Too Late To Speak Up

Encourage bravery—don't shame it.
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As our society evolves from a historical past of silencing voices, it seems as if people have finally acquired the bravery to speak up now more than ever.

With exposure at our fingertips through social media and the internet, it also seems as if it’s more difficult than ever to put yourself out there. I mean how can you when the whole world is always watching?

This especially applies to cases of sexual assault. Who wants to expose themselves and tell the world about a traumatizing experience that’s been silenced for so long? Something that will be judged, speculated and may even turn people against them. Who wants to be known as the girl that got sexually assaulted—or better yet—the girl that got raped? Nobody wants to view their life that way.

And since that topic is so prevalent now. Let’s take a close look at the recent domino effect of famous men getting taken down one-by-one.

Ever since allegations of producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced just last month, we’ve seen a sickening amount of big names come under fire as multiple women finally spoke up about their past experiences.

Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct by five women, Steven Seagal accused of sexually harassing actress Portia de Rossi and others, Kevin Spacey accused of sexually assaulting an underage boy, former Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick accused of raping a girl three years ago—and that’s just a few of them. Unfortunately, there’s a long list of more.

Something all of these cases have in common is that it wasn't their only act of sexual misconduct. More people exposed similar situations by each man once the first claim circulated. Coincidence? Probably not.

Someone asked, “Why are so many women just now telling people about this when it happened so long ago?”

Clearly people with these types of questions don’t understand how trauma affects people. So, let’s put it into perspective.

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Heath, “The study revealed that only 18% of the adult women's rapes and only 11% of the assaults of children were reported.”

It’s a bit clearer why children would internalize a traumatic sexual experience—they’re scared, confused, too young to understand—whereas an adult is more aware—but is that supposed to make it any easier? With a head of fully-developed emotions and understanding of the world, even as adults, we still feel like children when faced with trauma.

So of course, a victim’s first instinct is to be scared. They retreat to isolation because it’s all they know how to do in a moment of fear and disillusion.

Scientifically, sexual trauma has a particular kind of effect on the brain.

The Cognitive Neuroscience Society published a study about the complex neuroscience of sexual trauma and how drastically it affects the victim.

“The rate of false report in sexual violence is actually low, estimated by most studies to be around 7% (to compare, this is considerably lower than the rate of insurance fraud)."

The study further reported how even a simple altercation or uncomfortable moment can trigger a wave of distress. It not only disrupts emotional well-being, it creates a “cascade of hormonal changes, which includes oxytocin and opiates, associated with pain management, adrenaline, commonly associated with “fight or flight,” and cortisol."

"Functional connectivity between different areas of the brain is affected.”

So, as we all know the old adage, “time heals all wounds,” that just may be what helps these victims finally come to peace with their fears. Another is when someone else with the same experience speaks up first—finally the victim can fill the void of loneliness they’ve felt their entire repression. Finally, someone else who gets it.

As humans, we should be encouraging this type of unity and bravery for a victim. Help each other stand up for justice. Why as humans do we blame the victim? Why do we defend a man just because he’s our favorite actor or we thought he was a good person?

Especially women—shouldn’t we encourage them to speak up when their voices have been silenced for so long?


It's never too late to speak up. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is free, confidential and 24/7: 800-656-HOPE

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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I'm Not Voting, And Guess What, That Is OK

To all of the recent political endorsements by celebrities and Facebook posts telling me I should register to vote, I'm not voting.

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I am not the type of person to normally ever write a Facebook post related to politics, yet here I am dedicating a whole article to it. Or rather about voting itself, not my political affiliation. For the most part, I like to keep my political outlooks to myself instead of broadcasting them to all of my friends, family, coworkers, and that handful of people I do not actually know but I accepted their friend request anyway. Instead, I grace this group of people with animal videos because it doesn't cause any friction, the videos are always light-hearted, and there are already so many other people posting about the next election.

But tonight that changed. I saw a post about how people who do not vote should be fined. I do not know why this ignited something in me, but it did. I have no problem ignoring every other person telling me to register to vote or vote a hundred times on my feed, but charging me a fine for exercising my right crossed a line.

Quite frankly, I do not identify as a liberal democrat or conservative republican so I should not be subjected to vote for either. I choose not to vote because I do not support either side of the political spectrum and I do not think any of the candidates are true to what I want in the future of my country. There are some ideas I like from Democrats as well as some ideas I like from Republicans, but because of the political climate in recent years, the political parties are becoming more polarized than ever with their ideas, and instead of seeking a moderate stance, are becoming more extreme. I understand that voting is seen as a civic responsibility that comes with being a U.S. citizen, but I have the right to vote not the obligation to vote, and people should respect that decision.

Can you imagine amending the constitution to include penalties for not voting? Where is the democracy in forcing citizens to the ballots via scare tactics? I just do not want to be forced into voting or supporting something that I do not believe in. I will vote when there is a candidate that earns my vote and that I support instead of voting just to vote.

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