Two weeks ago, The Carrier covered the issue of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the necessity for our society to care more about sexual assault overall. As more victims of sexual assault have stepped forward in the recent weeks, it seems as though the #METOO campaign is gaining momentum at dizzying speeds. The hashtag has even been translated into Italian (#QuellaVoltaChe, or “that time when”) and French (#BalanceTonPorc, or “out your pig”). A dam of accusations seems to have been broken.
If the Harvey Weinstein scandal had started and ended with Harvey Weinstein, this would be a different story. It would be a story about how one man has gotten away with inexcusable acts for so long. But the story doesn’t stop with Weinstein.
A snowball effect has begun, initiated by a few brave individuals that decided to stand up for themselves. As more and more women (and a few men) step forward, it’s evident that this problem is not restricted to dimly-lit street corners in sketchy cities in the dead of night. It exists in big business and small neighborhoods. It happens in Hollywood and on college campuses.
The common denominator is not the location, but the perpetrator. According to OneInFourUSA.org, 98% of sexual assault crimes are committed by men. This is an overwhelming statistic, but it is not random. Through outdated gendering, boys are often raised with a desire for power and success at any cost. This becomes manifest in the workplace, classroom and sports field. It also causes many to feel as though they must assert their dominance over a coworker, friend or sexual partner through force, including sexual assault.
Victim statistics are also staggering. OneInFourUSA reports that 90% of rape victims are female. There is a reason for this number, too.
Rape culture attempts to find any possible way to blame women for being sexually assaulted. What was she wearing? Was she drunk? Was she flirting? Does she have a history of sleeping around? Was she hot? The answers to any and all of these questions are entirely irrelevant because a crime is simply never the victim’s fault. Compare this crime to one of equally damaging consequences. Who would ask a stab victim if they were drunk when they were attacked? Or about what they were wearing? Seems a little humorous, does it not?
Not only are women hushed, but men seem to find baffling ways to escape conviction. May we not forget college student Brock Turner, a rapist who served only three months in prison because the people were worried about his future swimming career. Victims fall into this trap too, which is one of the reasons so many sexual assault cases go unreported. A person doesn’t become worthless because they rape. But they do become a rapist, and must be treated as such, no matter their previous or potential contributions to society.
Victims of sexual assault shoulder the burden of having to fight for understanding, or even a voice to be heard. Our culture so easily dismisses victims and praises men for their sexual escapades, all while forgetting the fact that 1 in 6 women will be victims of attempted, or fulfilled, sexual assault in their lifetime.
Maybe #MeToo has sparked a revolution. Maybe assaulters will no longer be able to hide behind big business or a promising future. Maybe we will start believing victims. But a hashtag and a few celebrities getting shunned isn’t going to solve the hurt that has already been done or that is currently happening. After all, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Why don’t we change that? Let’s discourage toxic masculinity. Let’s encourage victims to speak up and, when they cannot, speak for them. As trite as it sounds, change starts at home.