“We need to empower victims of sexual assault”

An average of 237,868 sexual assaults occur each year, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). If you do the math, that’s one case of assault every two minutes. Shockingly, 60 percent of all assaults go unreported, and 97 percent of all rapists will not sit behind bars.

Sexual assault is the act of threatening, pressuring, or forcing an unconsenting individual into sexual engagement, or engaging in any unwanted sexual touching. The huge gap between reported and unreported cases is likely the result of the way we view this form of treatment.

In cases where a female is a victim of sexual assault, American culture teaches us to automatically assume it’s probably her fault. We first ask ourselves, “what was she wearing?” and then resolve to believe her choice to wear a skirt that might have been too short is what caused her to get harassed. Then, if she was supposedly “flirting” with her predator, she probably provoked his or her actions. The patriarchy wants us to believe that it is always the woman’s fault that men can’t control their hormones and sexual urges.

On the other hand, for male victims, the circumstance tends to be belittled because (a) he apparently should’ve enjoyed the situation and (b) the situation isn’t as common as a woman getting harassed. Culture teaches us that if a man is harassed, he should’ve grown a pair and stood up for himself because he’s a man, and therefore, strong enough to handle the situation.

Both scenarios teach people that victims of assault do not deserve closure because it was their fault that they got assaulted. Females should not act or dress provocatively, and males should exhibit manliness by enjoying the treatment or telling his pursuer off. We teach people, especially young adolescents and students, that being a victim of assault was, is, or will be their fault, and do not show that being the harasser is wrong.

In my personal experience learning about sexual assault, I was taught once about the topic in middle school. During an assembly, we were told that assaulting someone would get you thrown in prison if you’re reported. Thus ends my school-taught knowledge of the consequences of sexual assault. There was no information about the depression, anger, or insecurity that victims of sexual assault react with. Nor did I learn about how victims may experience drops in academic or work performance, and may even withdraw from school or work.

The amount of applause victims receive for reporting sexual assault is extremely unlike the how at fault they’re perceived as. The 60 percent statistic shows how American culture does almost nothing to denounce sexual harassment among peers and colleagues. It shows tolerance for a kind of disrespect that shouldn’t be tolerated. But what’s even better than more reports is if the number of cases dropped to zero because of an absence of sexual assault. A change is needed, and we need to encourage and empower victims of sexual assault to report their cases, and teach people that harassment does more than send them to prison; it’s psychologically detrimental to their victims.

 

Evan Kwong

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