By Melissa Rollins, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past two weeks, I have seen the words ‘Me Too’ pop up on the Facebook pages of several people that I know, friends and family. Those two simple words don’t mean much out of the context of why they were posted. Someone might look at it and think ‘What am I missing?’ but these posts come within a broader trend. I hate to use the word trend; it is accurate but denigrates the strength it took to type those words. There are some who qualify to type them but won’t; they feel ashamed of the experience that put them in the club that no one asks to be a part of. This simple statement on social media acknowledges that the user was the victim of sexual assault or harassment.
According to the United States Justice Department, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”
As the career and life of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein implodes, a justified response to the horrific accounts of decades of his abuse of power, people are coming forward to share their own experiences, inside and outside of Tinseltown.
Dozens of actresses and actors have shared that they experienced sexual assault, harassment and worse while simply trying to do their job and make a way for themselves in Hollywood.
Others have shared accounts of working in an office with a boss who felt it was okay to make inappropriate comments and jokes, invading personal space and crossing lines.
Children are taught by their parents that a certain type of touching is not okay and should be reported. When did that sentiment change?
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
Men, Women, and Children Are All Affected by Sexual Violence
•1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8 percent completed, 2.8 percent attempted).
•About 3 percent of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
•From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
•A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34 percent of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66 percent of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17.
The thing about assault is there is often a sense of shame attached, not for the perpetrator but for the victim. The person who was taken advantage of feels like they are responsible for what happened to them and society has run with that narrative. There have been many accounts of someone reporting a rape or an assault and being questioned about what they were wearing and doing, as though they had brought this horror on themselves. This narrative has to stop. There is never a situation, piece of clothing or flirty look that indicates that someone is asking to be violated. There is no industry where the ‘intrusion’ of a person of a certain race or gender means that they are inviting their co-workers or boss to harass them. This is not okay. This will never be okay.
I’ve been leered at and catcalled. Let me tell you, having strangers yelling at you is not funny or cute. It is not flattering. It is frightening. My job often means that I am in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. I shouldn’t have to be looking over my shoulder to see if someone is following me, looking ahead for somewhere to run if necessary, but I do. Have I ever had to fight someone’s unwanted advances off? No, but there are others who have and plenty who have been unable to find that safe place to run to.
In the last decade, there have been several stories to hit the national news cycle of women who were assaulted or raped. People were outraged, calling for change only for the stories to unravel. Please understand that people do lie but more often than not when someone comes forward with a report, they are telling the truth. It is not pleasant to admit to having been a victim. It is not pleasant to sit across from a cop, a stranger, and tell them intimate details of being assaulted. It is not pleasant to sit in a court room and point to the person, stranger or friend, that violated you, hoping that a jury of 12 will believe you and punish the person for their crimes. It is not pleasant to suffer from anxiety and relive the experience over and over again, day after day.
As a society, we need to do better. We need to prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable. We need to place the blame on the person who committed the crime and not the victim. When they report, regardless of how long it took them to do so, we need to believe victims. We need to support victims. These crimes ruin careers. They ruin relationships. They ruin lives.