Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. This rising statistic doesn’t come close to accounting for the countries in which sexual assault is even more common, and little is done about it. This statistic doesn’t account for place after place in this world where sexual assault is still an issue that isn’t talked about. This statistic doesn’t shed light on the many cases that aren’t reported, aren’t talked about, and are kept hidden out of fear or “just brushing it off.”
Right now, thousands of #MeToo posts are flooding social media, after Alyssa Milano called victims to action in an attempt to shed light on the mass number of victims of sexual assault. Bravery and courage to come out with stories and experiences of sexual violence is the first step in a future where these stories are much less common.
Here’s how we start that first step: we can’t just scroll through social media and think about the magnitude that these cases have in our world; we can’t just sympathize; we can’t just focus on the statistics for white Americans – there are cases you’ve heard about, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you ask the women in your life about their experiences with sexual assault, chances are that more than one of them will have been victim, even if it’s a just minor case.
By scrolling through social media today, the magnitude of this issue is powerful in the number of comments and posts – with over 35,000 replies, Milano’s tweet sparked a flood of response days after the prevalence of sexual assault in media and film was revealed, breaking the web after many women in the industry have come forward with personal allegations of sexual assault, directed towards film producer Harvey Weinstein. With everyone from celebrities to thousands of Twitter and Facebook users coming forward, Milano has succeeded in creating a glimpse into the magnitude of this issue, and the number of people who are far too familiar with sexual assault.
Coming forward with these statements of protest and support is an act of bravery in itself – one that we must not forget: when we see abuse, when we hear disrespect, when we feel unsafe or belittled. These are the stories we must remember when we tell little girls that if boys are mean to them, it means they like them. These are the stories we must remember when we brush off the magnitude of sexual assault cases and the bravery of victims.
Listening to victims is just as important as speaking out. Continually educating yourself is just as important as using that knowledge to spark change. Sexual assault happens everywhere, to everyone, and it is vital that we lend our ears and hearts to all experiences, no matter how small they may look.
21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.
One case is too many. This is why #MeToo is a sign of strength that needs to be the first mainstream action of many. Listening, understanding, and communicating the issue of sexual assault is the first step to a world in which education starts at a young age, a world in which respect begins at a young age, a world in which behavior is never excused because “boys will be boys,” a world in which we feel safe walking home at night, a world in which it’s not a feat to walk to our cars in a dark grocery store parking lot. Change starts with you: it starts at the root – in schools, at home, where you are the example for your children and children around you – on how you speak to and about others, an example of action and reaction in different scenarios.