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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Columns

Staff Editorial: Sexual assault will not end with awareness


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The latest headline-grabbing accusations of sexual assault came against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. Multiple women came out and shared their testimonies from over the years,  revealing society’s views of victims and their perpetrators.

The responsibility of preventing sexual assault and rape has always been a problem for the victim, not the perpetrator. We’ve all heard their attempts at rationalizing assault: What were you wearing? Were you drunk? Why didn’t you protect yourself?

Regardless of dress, inebriation or ability to protect oneself, the absence or presence of these factors is not going to stop a sexual assaulter.

Being in college is one of the most vulnerable times to be sexually assaulted. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, 54 percent of women ages 18 to 34 become sexual assault victims. These statistics account only for what has been reported, so the stories we hear of people not believing victims or the crimes that are kept silent could make stats go higher. More than 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

From 2013 to 2015, UH has had 31 reported rape cases. This number does not reflect the actual number of rapes that occurred. But again, the number should be zero, and the vast majority of rapes go unreported.  

To stop this — locally and nationwide — we must shift how men view women. Women are sexually assaulted at a disproportionate rate with one in five women and one in 71 men being raped in their lifetimes.

When sexually inappropriate behavior is tolerated, we all become vulnerable to it. Though it is most likely that it will happen to a woman — that it has already happened to a woman you know — it can happen to anyone. It is easy to distance yourself from the issue, but think about it: one in five women will go on to experience sexual assault before they die.

If one in five women have been or will be abused, then how many men have been abused? We need to wake up and face the possibility, and in some cases the likelihood, that these abusers are just as intimately involved in our lives as the men and women of whom they have taken advantage.

It is only by acknowledging the fact that sexual assault is something that we come into contact with everyday — and that we have a responsibility to stop it — that we can end this horrific cycle, which affords its victims so much shame and pain. We have a responsibility. We need to step up and speak out.

There are ways to possibly stop this from happening at the root. We have to look at the the criminals committing these acts against the victims.

In the case of female victims, the view is always on the woman that was assaulted. Looking at that side of issue is not a bad thing. But solely focusing on that means leaves the perpetrator out of focus. They don’t have to deal with the social implications or exile as much as the victim does.

Although men are far less likely to be on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances, we must give them the space to speak out on their sexual abuse stories. The notion that men cannot be sexually assaulted only silences the conversation more and lets more criminals get away with their deeds. Sexual assault is less about sex and more about power and who has the right to someone’s body.

The conversation must also be looked at in the scope of the hypermarginalized groups. This would include the LGBT community.

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexaul Violence Survey, 44 percent of lesbians 26 percent of gay men and 61 and 37 percent of bisexual women and men, respectively, have been raped or sexually assaulted.

Even more, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 64 percent of transgender people have been sexually assaulted.

There needs to be a greater respect for each other as people. Only then will the construct of sexual assault be discarded.

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