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The Sexual Assault Epidemic

In recent months, the topic of sexual abuse has been broadcast heavily as celebrities and other public figures continue to be accused of the crime. Such accounts have lead to the widespread solidarity between sexual assault victims.

The popularity of the hashtag #MeToo, which allows sexual assault survivors to share their stories, poses something of a double-edged sword, since more than twelve million people shared their stories on social media over only the first twenty-four hours of its creation, revealing not only the empowerment which radiates from the high number of survivors but the severity of sexual assault. Statistically, there are 321,500 (reported) victims of sexual assault every year, which calculates to about one transgression every 98 seconds, according to RAINN. Women, especially under the age of 25, are extremely vulnerable to sexual assault, with about 79.6% of rapes occurring during or before this age.

Approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men are reported to be sexual assault survivors, meanwhile, 13% of survivors will attempt suicide and 33% will contemplate it. These reports may be incorrectly low since as many as 1 in 3 sexual assaults are not reported to police. Many reasons factor into this, such as fear, shame, or inability to remember, in cases of being drugged or repressing. However, unarguably, one of the most influential reasons is the fact that only 6 out of every 1,000 sexual abusers will be arrested. This may also lead victims to fear revenge from an unincarcerated abuser, and opt to not report it.

While it is almost impossible to pinpoint one exact cause of the sexual assault epidemic, social factors obviously play a role. Since it is taught at such a young age what each gender’s role in society must be, with both genders being (incorrectly) taught, whether outright or not, that women are inferior to men. This is shown on television, history, advertisements, school experiences, and stereotypes. This detrimental way of teaching reinforces the negative idea that women are to be treated as objects to be used.  The societal expectation that men are meant to sleep with many women to be considered ‘cool’ by their peers undoubtedly has an influence as well. Culturally taught disrespect may also play a part when considering male survivors.

Sexual abuse is not only present in the artistic media but within Hollywood’s celebrity circle. Over the past couple of months, copious amounts of celebrities have had accusations against them, often by multiple victims. Some of these celebrities include Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, Andy Dick, Dustin Hoffman, and Kevin Spacey. These cases leave a blemish not only on the minds and hearts of those subjected to the abuse but on society as a whole. For example, in the case of Kevin Spacey, the excuse of being a closeted gay man assaulting closeted gay men caused the victims to struggle harder when considering pronouncement of Spacey’s crimes. Not only that but when allegations finally surfaced, they had the potential to reinforce the stereotype that homosexuals are sexual predators. These celebrity abusers most certainly have an influence on their fans and supporters, whether that be to stop the violence or to replicate it.

In the midst of the recent coverage, one thing that has been seldom mentioned is the resources for those who have been abused. When looking for online support from peers, #MeToo may be a way to get in contact. Though sharing a sexual assault story with the internet might not be for everyone, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available for those who seek emotional support and is operated by survivors. The Sexual Violence Resource Center is available for those who seek information about sexual assault and legal advice. Darkness To Light hotline offers crisis intervention and referral services to child victims of sexual assault. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers services to survivors of domestic violence, including sexual assault. Many more resources can be found on RAINN.org for victims of sexual assault.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE [(800) 656-4673]

The Sexual Violence Resource Center: nsvrc.org

Darkness To Light: (866) FOR-LIGHT [(866) 367-5444]

National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE [(800) 799-7233)]

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