Opinion: Current Stigma Prevents Women From Speaking Openly About Sexual Assault
Violence against women has become more prevalent in the media surrounding us. We can see this through the actions of Harvey Weinstein, an extremely prevalent Hollywood producer and co-owner of The Weinstein Company who has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting women in the movie industry. Though these allegations are not new, the misconduct has allegedly spanned almost three decades, a New York Times article explains. Many of the people who worked for him claimed they knew of his inappropriate conduct while working for him, but almost no one confronted him about it, the article continues.
Many of Weinstein’s assistants, clients, and now-famous actresses are revealing the sexual assaults perpetrated against them by Weinstein. So why has this been allowed to carry on for so long? Is it due to Weinstein’s presence in the movie industry, or something more sinister? In the past, Weinstein was getting away with his assaults by reaching settlements with some of the women on the condition that they remain anonymous. But now, women that Weinstein have wronged aren’t backing down. Other allegations by women against prominent male figures in our society, like actor Bill Cosby or news host Bill O’Reilly, may have prompted this.
The Bureau of Justice’s 2015 criminal victimization survey reports that over 1 million people experienced what they call a “serious violent victimization” crime, which includes rape and sexual assault. But only 32 percent of rape or sexual assaults were reported to police. This means that there are millions of women who aren’t reporting assaults they are experiencing for many reasons.
And while these numbers are from a report dated two years ago, women who report sexual assault still often feel that they won’t be taken seriously or that nothing will be properly done to rectify the situation. Therefore, most of them won’t report it. This is most likely b
ecause 99 percent of sexual violence perpetrators will walk free, according to data collected from the Federal Bureau of Justice by the Huffington Post. And according to the same article, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. This is an appalling statistic. Why has this been allowed to stand in the U.S.?
Some attribute the more recent strings of sexual assault allegations to the 2016 Presidential election, according to another New York Times article, as our president has been found to perpetuate this type of behavior. Since the November election, many women have feared that “progress for women has stalled.” If a man who has been captured on video wrongly discussing women, with the same vulgarity as Weinstein, can become the President of the United States, how can anyone expect women to seek any sort of justice through their legal system? Because of this lack of trust in the system, many women have been turning to social media to reveal the moral corruption of some men in power in America.
The #MeToo campaign sweeping Twitter and Facebook exploded, with the tag being used more than 500,000 times in its first 24 hours. But this is not a new campaign. Tarana Burke explained to CBS News that she started the campaign back in 2007, to “let young women of color who survive sexual assault know that they are not alone.” In 2017, actress Alyssa Milano, who also credits Burke as the creator, revived the campaign to allow for women a voice amid the Weinstein scandal. This campaign urged women to speak out about their terrifying experiences with sexual assault and rape, and brought to light the gravity of the problem yet again. But knowing that Burke created the campaign 10 years ago, and knowing that most of the expansive allegations against Weinstein are not by any means recent, will this revelation be enough to finally get women the justice they deserve? If not, what will it take?