Our View: Sexual assault needs to be a big deal

Following a New York Times investigation of the history of sexual assault allegations and settlements from film producer and (former) film studio executive, Harvey Weinstein, dozens of women have stepped forward, speaking out against Weinstein, accusing him of assault/harassment. As the scandal continues to be the subject of headlines, celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cara Delevingne have come forward with their own stories. In the wake of the ongoing invesitgation, Weinstein has been fired from his own company and removed from the Producers Guild of America.

But this all begs the question: why now? Why has it taken years of quieted allegations, numerous women stepping forward, and nation-wide media coverage for action to be taken? It’s absurd that the voice of one victim of assault wasn’t enough to prompt a reaction or to draw attention to the issue. 

Identifying the problem is a step in the right direction. However, collectively we can take steps of our own to ensure men like Weinstein can no longer hide behind their power, wealth or dominance. 

It’s crucial that we listen to those who speak out about their experience with sexual harassment and that we take their allegations seriously. If we continue to ignore the issue, nothing will get done, and women will continue to suffer at the hands of men who pretend they are untouchable. 

Women have been sexualized in media since the film industry began. For decades, the expectations for women have been inflated, whether it be their appearance, their behavior, or their intelligence. Our society has been taught to over-sexualize and underestimate women. As a result, the respect for them, their bodies and desires, have been ignored. This breeds a culture which downplays sexual assault and praises men for their sexual escapades. 

Enter men like Harvey Weinstein: wealthy, successful, and powerful. No one wants to question someone as affluent as he. To point fingers at him seems almost laughable. Surely, no action could be taken to stop a man such as him. That is where society has failed.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), “One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.” This statistic speaks volumes-not only for the victims, but for society as a whole. Chance are likely that we all know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault. No matter the degree of separation, these odds emphasize the importance of speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

This statistic was illustrated with the “#Metoo” campaign which took social media by storm following the scandal. Victims of sexual assault pasted the simple hashtag on their profiles to tell their stories and bring light to the magnitude of women effected by sexual assault or harassment every day. The hashtag not only demonstrates the number of victims, but also reiterates the fact that you and I know someone who can say “#Metoo.” 

As a society, we must take sexual assault more seriously. We cannot allow victims to be quieted any longer. Nor can we allow women (and men) to suffer at the hands of their assailants. While it may be difficult for victims of sexual assault/harassment to have their voices heard, we can stand beside them and fight for the justice they deserve.

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