In the wake of the outrage and awareness brought about by the sexual assault accusations made towards a multitude of prominent figures in American entertainment, as well as the powerful #MeToo Twitter campaign, it is important to take a moment to understand what this issue means and how we, as young people, fit into it.
Although these occurrences may seem like distant tragedies, we must acknowledge that the problem is closer to us than many know. If you would like to meet someone who has overcome sexual assault or harassment, look around you. Look at the girls and boys in your classes, your neighbors, and your friends. Females between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than anyone else to be sexually harassed or raped. 1 in 6 women in America are survivors of rape or attempted rape. These odds are unacceptable.
It is always easy to write the perpetrators of these crimes off as “awful” or “sick” people, and these statements are usually correct. But it is important to note that the rate at which these assaults are occurring, must be occurring at the hands of people who see sexual assault as normal and harmless. In our heads, we have painted them as monstrous rapists, but they do not see it this way. What does this mean? There are fundamental issues within our country regarding sexual harassment, and they stem from our culture.
Although we may be subtle in the ways that we marginalize women and encourage men to take advantage of them, we do these things actively. We champion girls who are soft-spoken, kind and never angry. Concurrently, we teach men that they should be powerful, aggressive and confident, and make them feel as though a woman’s attire, appearance, and situation, among other things, is more of an indicator of whether they may touch her than her actual verbal approval. We have turned “feminist” into a dirty word, and we throw it at angry “radical” women who call for change.
We have created a cycle to encourage men to mistreat women and to scare women into silence. At this point, the least that we can do is be aware of this. We may not be able to change the entirety of this situation right away, but we can begin to shift the unfortunate status quo by individually rejecting it.