Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual+Assault

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Sexual Assault, Woman has her mouth covered with words around her.

Lindsay Miles

Every 73 seconds, someone is a victim of sexual assault.

Women all across America have been awakened by a strong and dominating social media movement over the past few weeks. You may have seen it as the 97% movement on TikTok or Instagram, but for those who do not know what it is: the 97% movement started from a British Study (linked at the bottom) that concluded that 97% of women 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment in a public space and 70% of women of all ages have experienced that same behavior.

This study shocked many readers and led it to be spread across multiple social media platforms. Readers could not fathom the percentage of women that claim to have experienced that behavior and some doubted the application of this study to larger sample sizes.

Unfortunately, this study was entirely accurate to its sample size and even with the margin of error being average, this study can apply to a population of 300 million. So yes, 97% of women in the general population have experienced some form of sexual harassment or sexual violence in their lifetime.

In the US in 2018, a non-profit organization called Stop Street Harassment found that 81% of women and 43% of men experienced some form of harassment in their lifetime.

The Stop Street Harassment organization also found that most women experience sexual harassment between the ages of 14-17. This is the exact age bracket for a high school like Hempfield and it is a prime example as to why this school needs to have this discussion. Harassment comes in multiple forms and some can go completely unnoticed, especially in a high school. Girls are normally told, “He’s just flirting with you” or “Boys will be boys.” But why are we as a society still telling girls to deal with the harassment instead of forcing boys to be more respectful and less creepy?

Teenagers at Hempfield and across America need to be taught the proper way to treat other humans. While women can be abusers and offenders too, ~90% of the time a female will be a victim of harassment, sexual assault, or rape at the hands of a man. The men and boys are the ones that need to be corrected and educated. They are the bigger problem, not women. Stop blaming women for the actions of men. They are not responsible for your choices.

 

The Unjust Consequences of Rape

A recurring trend in the criminal justice system is giving rapists lighter sentences. It has become a recent precedent that drug dealers with marijuana possessions are getting heavier sentences than rapists. Rape is a crime that changes a victim’s life forever so why does the justice system not take victims more seriously and punish rapists more heavily? There are a few reasons, rape is not reported as much as it occurs and barely any cases actually end in a felony conviction.

RAINN, an organization dedicated to SA awareness, found that 0.5% of rape cases end in a felony conviction. Due to so many perpetrators explaining away their crimes, they can get lesser sentences or walk away with no jail time. However, rape is not explainable and is entirely the fault of the rapist.

The infographic below is from the Guardian (linked below) and shows just how serious and important it is to report rape or sexual violence. It also shows how one-sided the justice system really is. This statistic is another example of why women do not want to report rape; they feel as though nothing will happen and no justice will be served. As depicted in the image, barely any cases made it to a court or resulted in a conviction. A trial is also extremely traumatizing for the victim. The process itself can be dehumanizing and can cause victims to relive their trauma. This can be an added reason as to why fewer people are convicted, the victims do not want to relive a trial which can result in their rapist getting a lighter sentence. In this case, the minimum sentence should be raised because these perpetrators need to serve years, not months.

 

Men and the Media Discrediting Sexual Assault

As a woman, I have seen and heard multiple ways men try and discredit sexual assault awareness or victims. Some dismiss the entire conversation while others victim-blame women. The most common arguments are the clothing the victim was wearing, intoxication, claiming unknowingness/issues with consent (“She didn’t say no, how was I supposed to know…”), or saying most women lie for attention.

 

Intoxication and Consent

Just recently in Minnesota, a woman’s rape case was overturned because she was voluntarily intoxicated during the rape. She was passed out on a couch, unconscious, and unable to consent. Although the ruling was overturned, it was still a shocking and disgusting mentality that the judges had while making the initial ruling. Claiming that since the victim consumed alcohol voluntarily, and not against her will, she is somehow responsible for what happened to her.

The victim was also passed out and could not verbally consent, which brings up another excuse: “She didn’t say no.” One thing that is commonly overlooked is how consent comes in multiple forms. “Fine” does not mean yes; ‘I don’t know/ I’m not sure” does not mean yes; not saying anything does not mean yes; being unresponsive does not mean yes; anything besides saying “yes” is not consent. 

Clothing

The clothing of women has no correlation with rape. The Federal Commission on Crime of Violence said that only 4.4% of rape cases involved blaming the victim for provocative behavior or clothing. In addition, women who dress more in layers are more likely to be raped, so blaming women for their “revealing” clothing they wear has absolutely nothing to do with preventing rape. Instead, people should just look away and not be disrespectful about the clothes someone is wearing.

In regards to men, despite making up  9% of victims, they are not told to layer up or cover themselves up so they will not attract unwanted attention. There was even an instance in this very school where a teacher made the men in the class leave the room while a female teacher lectured female students about the dress code. But the dress code is supposed to apply to both men and women equally but that mentality does not rest in the teachers’ minds. 

As stated previously, the clothing that a person is wearing has no effect on the likelihood of being a victim of rape. Therefore, the mentality that women need to cover their bodies is nothing more than a scare tactic that perpetuates fear among young girls and women. 

So instead of telling girls to cover their bodies, teach young men how it is not okay to catcall, harass, follow, rape, assault, or harm women for any reason. While teaching boys in school and at home how to treat women properly, the law is also responsible for perpetuating and allowing men to continue these heinous acts.

False Allegations

Another completely bogus argument against sexual assault awareness is that most women lie. This is wrong. The NSVRC found that between 2-7% of claims are false. So in reality, a majority of women are telling the truth. 

Women also feel as though their voice will not matter or by reporting it, or nothing will change even if they do report it. Some women are embarrassed by the situation and wait days to report but then are discredited by law enforcement. About 40% of women feel as though reporting sexual harassment or sexual violence will not change anything. While it is important to report an assault immediately, victims can be left confused, frustrated, or disheveled by their attacker. We need to have empathy and understand why someone might wait instead of dismissing them entirely since they are most likely telling the truth.

With women feeling as though their voice does not matter AND with the media painting victims out to be “attention seekers” or making false claims, women will continue to hide their experiences and nothing will change. It is extremely important to believe victims since only 2-7% are false. By discrediting all victims it is detrimental to the victims and beneficial to the perpetrators. The way people treat victims by victim-blaming, enduring an embarrassing trial, or watching your abuser walk away with a light sentence can also lead to extreme mental health issues.

 

The Asymmetrical Power Dynamic and Recent Events

Recently in the news, multiple YouTubers or people in powerful positions have been exposed for their actions. Famous names like David Dobrik, James Charles, and DeShaun Watson have received backlash from the general public over their disgusting behavior. 

    David Dobrik is a popular YouTuber who has been around for years. He is most commonly known for giving away lavish gifts like Teslas to his fans and his ‘pranks’. In 2017 a member of David’s vlog called The Vlog Squad was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while she was drunk. The victim goes by the pseudonym of ‘Hannah’ and was 20 years old at the time of the rape. She said that the member, who goes by ‘Durte Dom,’ gave her drugs and alcohol and raped her. This started when Dom had contacted Hannah and her friends and asked them to come to their mansion to film a video for the vlog. 

When they arrived they were told the video would be about having an orgy. The women expressed they were uncomfortable with the video but The Vlog Squad protested. Dom continued to supply alcohol to Hannah and while she was blackout drunk and unable to consent, Dom raped her. 

The video was edited and posted as a consensual act between Dom, Hannah, and her friend. The video was taken down but the fact that David would cover up a felony and then post it like it was consensual just shows what type of moral character he has. Worse yet, this was not the first or last time David would exploit people sexually for his videos. 

Another member of The Vlog Squad, Jason, was dating another YouTuber, Trisha Paytas. David and Jason thought it would be funny for David to hide in the shower while Jason and Trisha had sex. Trisha was completely unaware and was disgusted when she discovered David hiding in their shower. These ‘pranks’ that David would pull are just not pranks at all but are violations of privacy and are assault.

More recently, David is being held accountable for his actions against another vlog member, Seth. In the video, Seth is told a female member is in a disguise (her face was covered) in the other room. However, the person in the disguise is another male member, Nash. When Seth entered the room Nash started making sexual advances on Seth which resulted in making out. Nash continued to engage for over thirty seconds before taking off the mask, which left Seth shocked and disgusted. 

This is sexual assault. When a person is tricked into sex or sexual behavior with a person they would not consent to, that is assault. Seth did not know Nash was in the mask. Seth was under the impression that it was a woman that he liked. David even admitted in his podcast that Seth was completely unaware.

Following these incidents, the videos were eventually deleted but have resurfaced since the H3 podcast segment called Frenemies (hosted by Ethan Klein and Trisha Paytas) decided to expose the Vlog Squad’s actions. These two incidents are just a few of the multiple inappropriate and sexual incidents that David and his members have been involved in, there are still more that I did not cover here.

Another YouTuber who has been exposed is James Charles, 21. He had attempted to pursue relationships with boys as young as 16. Again, the H3 podcast has posted multiple videos exposing James’s predatory behavior where he sent young boys explicit images and texts.

Also in recent news, Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson has been accused by over 12 women of sexual assault. The most serious one is a woman who is referred to as ‘Jane Doe.’ She claims Watson asked her to perform oral sex on her during his massage therapy. Her lawyer says that he repeatedly told her that he was a very powerful person who could help or hurt her. He repeatedly asked her to massage his pubic area and Doe claims she blacked out and was confused and terrified. 

The other woman who made an accusation against Watson claimed he would expose himself and sometimes touch her with his genitalia. In another case, Watson told a woman she was wearing too many clothes and attempted to kiss her. Another woman claims that Watson touched the tip of his penis to her hand and when she started crying Watson responded, “I know you have a career and a reputation, and I know you would hate for someone to mess with yours, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

These incidents are all examples of the asymmetrical power dynamic. When one person has high financial or social standing over another, sexual coercion is extremely common in cases of sexual violence. 44.6% of women reported that they were assaulted by an intimate partner or acquaintance. When someone is in a relationship or partnership with someone more powerful than them, they can find themselves doing things they would not normally do so they can save their own reputation from defamation. 

David would give his victims gifts or appearances in his videos even at the expense of their dignity or privacy. James Charles used his influence on his fans to get sexual favors. His target audience is young and they look up to him and want to make him happy. He even admitted in his recent apology video that due to his failing relationships with men his age, he started targeting younger men. Watson has both a high financial and social standing and would repeatedly threaten his victims with ruining their careers. When a person in power uses fame or money in return for sexual favors, it is threatening and illegal.

David Dobrik, James Charles, and DeShaun Watson all used their power and money to influence and assault their victims and they all should be held accountable and be punished to the full extent of the law.

Mental Health and Drug Use

According to RAINN, 94% of victims reported PTSD the two-week following the incident. 33% of women who are raped contemplated suicide and 13% attempted suicide. A majority of women said they received backlash or victim-blaming which heavily affected their home and work lives. Victims need support. Even if you were not there or did not see it happen, these victims are still battling their assault months and years after. 

Victims can also experience a lot of other common disorders: dissociation, self-harm, eating disorders, pregnancy, STIs, or STDs, sleeping disorders, or panic attacks.

Victims are also more likely to start drug use compared to the general public. They are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 6 times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use other drugs.

 

    Sexual assault is a very difficult topic to talk about. With so much misinformation, no education, and perpetuated misogyny, real victims are overlooked and unheard. They deserve representation and they deserve the chance to see their abuser punished. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to. That is why I wrote this article, so every person affected by sexual violence, harassment, or assault can feel heard. You are not alone and you are seen.

And if you think this article was too political or unnecessary, you are a part of the problem.

 

Links:

97% of young women have been sexually harassed, study finds (msn.com)

CDE :: Explorer (cloud.gov)

Schoolgirls demand street harassment awareness to be taught in schools (openaccessgovernment.org)

A New Survey Finds 81 Percent Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment : The Two-Way : NPR

Why dress codes can’t stop sexual assault – The Washington Post

Minnesota supreme court overturns felony rape conviction because woman had gotten intoxicated voluntarily – CNN

Why the criminal justice system goes easy on rapists. (slate.com)

Sexual Assault Statistics | National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

69,000 female, 9,000 male rape victims per year: get the full data | UK news | The Guardian

Members of David Dobrik’s ‘Vlog Squad’ Accused of Sexual Assault (msn.com)

All of James Charles’s Allegations & Accusations, Explained (thecut.com)

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans QB, accused of sexual assault – CBS News

Sexual Assault Is About Power | Psychology Today

Effects of Sexual Violence | RAINN