Show solidarity for victims of sexual assault, understand reporting, impact

October 31, 2017

Scribe Staff

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    58 women.

    This is how many actresses, models and producers have spoken out against Harvey Weinstein, whom they accuse of sexual assault, harassment and, for some, rape.

    As these brave women come forward to tell their stories, the topic of sexual assault hits close to home for those at college campuses. One in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while they attend college, according to the Campus Sexual Assault study.

    To put that in perspective, these statistics amount to 1,600 students at UCCS.

    At UCCS, very few instances of sexual misconduct were reported in 2016. Six reported rapes in on-campus housing and one reported instance of fondling occurred on campus last year, according to the 2017 Annual Fire & Safety Report.

    But six instances of rape are still too many, and this does not even account for unreported cases.

    In response to the dialogue surrounding sexual assault, some have asked, “Why haven’t we heard more about this, and why don’t victims immediately seek justice for the actions of their predators?”

     It’s important to understand the answers to these questions, because rape is rarely falsely reported; according to a 2009 study by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, only 2.1 percent of 812 studied cases of reported rapes were false.

    Not only that, but it takes courage for victims to report the crime.

    It’s important to understand why so many people choose not to report their attackers to the authorities. There are many personal reasons that factor into someone’s choice not to report these incidents, including fear that no one will believe them, or that they’ll lose respect from their loved ones.

    Rape and sexual assault [JN3] can cause lasting physical, emotional and mental trauma, and statistically, more than one person that you care about has been sexually assaulted, or will be.

    It’s true that most victims don’t officially report incidents of rape or sexual assault. Less than 10 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses are reported, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Data from the U.S. Department of Education also confirms this statistic.

     In 2015, for example, analysis by the American Association of University Women found that 89 percent of U.S. college campuses reported zero formally recorded incidents of rape.

    Despite these well-established statistics, stories seem to be suddenly proliferating about rape and sexual assault both in Hollywood and in the lives of Twitter users.

     With the topic of rape and sexual assault dominating the media, we would be ashamed if we didn’t meaningfully add to the discourse.

    Descriptions of sexual assault are hard to listen to, and it makes people defensive and resistant. Maybe they aren’t ready to keep listening and realizing, to their horror, how common and painful of an issue this is.

    Start by acknowledging your automatic disgust and hesitancy in response to these conversations, and start by withholding your judgment on social media.

    We need more people to stand with us in disgust of sexual assault, because many victims are currently standing alone.

    The hashtag #MeToo, circulating Twitter and other social media outlets, is meant to demonstrate how widespread of a problem sexual assault is.

    Solidarity, even if through a viral hashtag campaign, can be powerfully supportive to those who have endured sexual assault.

    This type of demonstrated support helps victims to see that they aren’t as isolated from others who understand what they’ve been through.

    Posting a hashtag is much less intimidating than facing your assailant in court, or explaining to your friends and family what happened to you.

    Reading the experiences of others and having the opportunity to open up, even in a small way, about something as impacting as rape or sexual assault, can give victims the courage to start confronting what happened.

    But a hashtag is not what’s important. What’s important is listening, despite not yet understanding, and respecting others’ boundaries.

    If this editorial made you uncomfortable in some way, but you have read this far, thank you.