Natalie’s News: Sexual Assault Brought to Light

Natalie Guarino, Managing Editor

Is 2017 ever going to end? Every month, new scandals or disasters have rocked the world. For the past month, a barrage of sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct allegations have consumed the press.

Since early October, when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was exposed for assaulting women, dozens of influential men have been accused of some form of sexual misconduct. From Sen. Al Franken to comedian Louis C.K., celebrity chefs to executives of Uber, it seems the men who hold power are abusing it right and left.

This barrage of revelations is so alarming because it reconciles men who are affiliated with such great achievements (Oscars, Senate positions, Emmys, being crazy rich), with the lowest and most reviled behavior possible. It is shocking and scary to realize that men who are role models for many people have done such horrible things.

It is hitting home again that rapists, assaulters, and misogynists aren’t only the creepy guys who hang around convenience stores. They are people in power, people leading our country, people who play a big role in society.

I’ve looked through a lot of the apologies and explanations issued by and for the men accused. Some are outright apologetic, others deny any wrongdoing, many dance between excuses and rationalizations. But there is no justification for assaulting someone. There is a reason robbers don’t go free when they tell the victimized homeowner or store owner how sorry they are and how much they regret their actions.

These half-baked apologies ring hollow to me because I can’t fathom that these men were “ashamed” or “embarrassed” by their actions before they were brought to light. These men aren’t sorry for what they did, they’re sorry they got caught.

As headline after disturbing headline hits, I still don’t understand how so many people who are outwardly well-learned, talented, and valuable members of society can hate women.

Because that fact is whispered to me every time I hear that someone I respected as an artist or politician or journalist has done something horrible. Respecting women and assaulting them are mutually exclusive. You cannot do both at once.

If there is any lesson to take from the recent outpouring of allegations, it’s that sexual assault and harassment isn’t unique to any industry, age group, or demographic. It is pervasive throughout our society, and even the most famous actresses or actors aren’t exempt from being targeted.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. This is not a Hollywood problem or a Washington problem. This is an America problem.

Knowing how widespread this issue is, I wanted to see how sexual assault or harassment has affected the women in my life. I decided to ask my female family members about their experiences, but I couldn’t get past my immediate family.

Starting with my mom, bringing up such a sensitive topic was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I found myself embarrassed and a little flustered, even with someone I trust completely. Thinking about asking aunts and cousins and putting them on the spot about possibly awful experiences made me extremely anxious.

Then, I stopped. I couldn’t even ask people I love about sexual assault because it’s such a tough topic to discuss.

But survivors have been sharing their stories and advocating for themselves for years. Even when the media refuses to give credibility to victims, they continuously come forward and strive for justice.

Sexual assault is still a taboo topic. Women who come forward are often ignored or belittled. The idea that “men can’t be raped” continues to permeate our culture. There is also little chance assaulters will even be punished; RAINN reports that out of every 1,000 rapes committed, only six rapists will be incarcerated. The courage required by the women and men who have recently spoken out needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

Many of the men accused of sexual misconduct in the past month have resigned, been fired, or shunned. Our society is finally saying sexual assault or harassment of any kind is inexcusable. Survivors are being listened to (for the most part). This is a step in the right direction. We need to continue to hold people accountable for their actions and respect the people pushing for change.