December 18, 2017

#MeToo –– It’s time to stand with victims

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As sexual assault allegations and new information is hurtled at your news feeds daily, it can be troublesome to see fan-favorite celebrities giving out statements of denial and acceptance while losing their positive reputations. The appearance of the “MeToo” hashtag has taken Twitter and Facebook by storm to show how many have been affected by unwanted contact.

It seems like lately many Hollywood bigwigs have come under fire for sexual assault, which is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Actors and executives such as Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, Bill O’Reilly and many others have gone back and forth with statements either denying or accepting their actions and/or offering apologies for “unintentional” behavior.

Unintentional or not, they were adults with fully functioning brains who knew the acceptable boundaries and crossed them.

It may be hard to believe that your favorite comic, athlete, actor or writer would do something so heinous, but it does not give us the right to say, “I’m sure that’s not actually what happened,” or “They must be exaggerating.” We can’t allow ourselves to turn away from the accusations simply because we enjoy seeing that person’s accomplishments or works of art. Art can be separated from the artist for some people, but not everyone can see past the artist’s transgressions and shouldn’t have to.

The problems with sexual assault and sexual harassment occur at work and other day-to-day environments and we need to honestly listen to those stories, whether the accused is a friend, boss, family member or coworker.

As someone who has experienced such behavior on multiple occasions, I can say without a doubt that besides the actual experiences, one of the hardest things for victims to do is to speak up about what happened. Keeping this information private can be damaging to mental health and lead to other problems further down the road when the repressed issues eventually come out.

According to rainn.org, about two out of every three sexual assaults go unreported. The reasons for this can vary greatly. It can be too difficult to speak up right after something has happened, and many times the legitimacy of a claim made after the fact comes into question.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t investigate the facts, because false claims are real and damaging, but we as a society need to be more open to victims’ stories and stop putting blame on those going through trauma. Nothing will ever change if we continue to silence those who have been affected by sexual assault, especially if we make it easy for the perpetrators to hide behind their “fame.”

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