Last year, Harvey Weinstein, a major film producer, was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault, harassment, and rape.
After this news hit major media outlets, Alyssa Milano, an actress best-known for her role on Charmed, tweeted about her experiences with sexual assault and ended the tweet with #MeToo.
Milano got this idea from Tarana Burke, a social activist who in 2006 used the then popular social media outlet of Myspace, as a way to shed light on young women of color who experience sexual assault in their communities which were often underserved.
She came up with the term after a 13-year-old girl had disclosed her experience of sexual assault with Burke. Burke, overwhelmed by her emotions, was unable to respond.
Later, she said she should have just responded “me too,” in order to show solidarity.
Since these allegations, other famous men have been accused, and sexual assault is being taken more seriously: men like Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby, Danny Masterson, Russell Simmons, Louis C.K., Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey, and most recently, Brett Kavanaugh.
With these allegations, many people were quick to question the victims rather than the aggressors, which speaks to how people view victims.
Due to the fact that most victims, spoke up months, and maybe even years after the reported incident, a lot of people discredit their recollection of the event, and even say that women are extorting them because they are men of high stature.
When looking at victimhood, we must discuss why we do not take victims seriously, more specifically, victims of color.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh, does not fit the typical victim profile that can be altered by media entities: she is educated, she has a nice job, grew up affluently, and comes from “a good family,” and because of her circumstances, people are more inclined to believe her.
Her testimony has garnered support from many women, myself included, and it is undeniable that her story is true.
However, for women of color alleging against powerful men, their acceptance is not so natural. Women of color are statistically more inclined to be victims of sexual assault. When looking at black women specifically, only 1 out of every 15 women report their sexual assault, even though 40% of black women report being assaulted by 18-years-old.
Although not all black women live in underserved communities, there is an unfortunate correlation between race and socioeconomic status of victims of sexual abuse. This is part of the reason why black women do not report incidents of sexual assault as frequently as white women. Yet and still, these women exist, and these women matter.
Furthermore, when looking at sexual assaults amongst young women, there has been an increase in awareness across college campuses. Still, the culture of sexual assault amongst most college campuses is a culture of indifference.
When you put teenagers/ young adults together in a setting where they are able to easily access one another, it is no surprise that they begin to engage in casual sex.
Thankfully, most universities and insitutions have accepted it as reality and as an intricate piece of college culture. Therefore, that acceptance should result in action.
For example, information regarding safe sex and sexual assault should be added into the curriculum of the “First Year Experience” course that all freshmen are required to take. Although some believe that speaking honestly and openly about sex, and the consequences of making sexual advances without consent is not necessarily academic, when at an instiution with sex-crazed adults, it is a necessity to educate people on what consent is and what it is not. Still, Gsu attempted to have a public conversation.
Last year, there was a mandatory forum about regarding “campus safety.” See, and that is the first problem: a lot of college administrations are afraid of admitting what happens on campus. The forum, though about safety, was held after there was an influx of reported sexual assault incidents. Although sexual assault falls under the umbrella of campus safety, the very specific issue was sexual assault and rape that was plaguing our campus. In order to effect change, we must call things how we see it.
Secondly, pamphlets were handed out across campus on ways to prevent sexual assault. The pamphlet, if I recall correctly, placed preventing sexual assaults in the hands of potential victims, not potential aggressors, which sends a very distorted message as to why sexual assaults happen.
Sexual assaults happen because of the aggressor, not because the victim had on shorts, or a crop top, or because they had been drinking too much.
Aggressors should simply not assault. It is that simple, and it will ALWAYS be that simple. This culture festers a long line of discrediting victims, thus preventing future victims from coming forward.
Further, black men, though understandable, are hesitant to believe sexual assault allegations against other black men, specifically by white women, because of the historical context of what happens to black men who are accused of sexual assault.
Emmett Till was brutally murdered in 1955 because a white woman falsely accused him of making inappropriate advances towards her.
Due to this, black men have united in protecting one another from such allegations. Although that is understandable, black men sometimes take it too far in my opinion.
I understand completely why black men are hesitant, however, black men sometimes discredit victims simply out of support of their fellow black men without knowing all of the facts.
In that same breath, sometimes women are quick to slander alleged aggressors without all of the facts.
Either way, sexual assault should be taken seriously until evidence proves otherwise, and victims should not be discredited or antagonized simply because people cannot accept that someone they look up to is the aggressor.
There are ways to do research about incidents before making crude comments as google is completely free if you have access to the internet.
Circling back to what a victim looks like, a victim can look anyway: it does not matter if people find the victim physically appealing, and with the emergence of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, it further solidifies that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, regardless of race, gender, and/or socioeconomic status. As long as aggressors are not held accountable, future victims are not safe.