By Lucy Martinson, V Form
Taboo or Taking a Stand? Why Sexual Assault Needs More Attention
Editors’ Note: In Dr. Worrell’s Social Justice course, students identified an issue that they wanted to take a stand on and then researched to write an evidence-based editorial to demonstrate that they have built knowledge and skills. This assignment was modeled on The New York Times Learning Network Student Editorial Contest.
Sexual assault has always existed but became more visible recently with actresses such as Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie accusing acclaimed director Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. The outbreak of these allegations brought the nation’s attention to the issue of sexual assault and harassment. Following this, actress Alyssa Milano started the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter, encouraging women to speak out and share their stories. This movement gained rapid popularity and snowballed across various means of social media, with thousands of women (and men) replying with their experiences and/or their support. Yet, even with these recent high profile cases, there is still work to be done to raise awareness regarding the prevalence of sexual assault.
While most people know about sexual assault and why it is a problem, they are far less are aware that one out of every six American women is a victim of either rape or attempted rape, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). In fact, RAINN reports that 17.7 million women and 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of rape since 1988 (#metoo). Those are merely the recorded cases. The media’s focus is usually on celebrities or politicians, but sexual assault/harassment is common among youths as well. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college (Statistics), and The Center for Disease Control reports that 30% of female sexual assault victims were first attacked between age 11 and 17. The Justice Department also states that nearly 20 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault (The Need).
Educating people about the prevalence of sexual assault is a big step towards furthering awareness. Once people begin to realize its frequency, more survivors will be open to sharing their stories. Since cases can contain traumatic, personal details, the topic is often considered too sensitive for open discussion. However, because sexual assault victimizes everyday people as much as celebrities and politicians, it is imperative that we work to destigmatize this topic. Using allegations in the media as catalysts, we can make our society no longer afraid to talk about sexual assault, helping to prevent future incidents. As film producer Nina Jacobson notes, “I think the floodgates being opened is something that had to happen and that finally brings a subject to the surface that has sort of gone unchecked for countless years” (Rutenberg).
Lucy Martinson is a V Form boarding student from Concord, New Hampshire. She plays soccer, hockey, and lacrosse, is a part of the musical, and enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and dog.
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