Opinion: Awareness isn't enough to prevent sexual assault
On Monday, a social media campaign launched by Charmed actress Alyssa Milano to raise awareness for sexual assault and harassment survivors in light of the recent scandal involving director Harvey Weinstein took Facebook and Twitter by storm with hundreds of thousands of survivors posting "#MeToo," while some opted to relay their personal experiences.
Reading through the posts of survivors, especially the ones you didn't realize you knew, provides the sort of gritty reality checks that make stomachs drop.
It's simple to say, "Yes, we should help women and men who experience sexual assault," and then picture survivors as abstract, two-dimensional characters on Law and Order: SVU, whose struggles will be resolved within a 40-minute episode.
Obviously, most people can agree that this is not the case. Wounds caused by sexual assault can scar in ways that may not be visible to those who know survivors, and the process of seeking justice in a sexual assault or harassment case can be arduous.
The sad reality is this: According the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, a person in the United States is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. A survey in 2015 by the Association of American Universities found that one in four college women are survivors of sexual assault. Yet, only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will find themselves behind bars. That famous statistic we've all been told that one in six women will be the survivor of attempted or complete rape in their lifetime goes back to the 1998 National Violence Against Women Survey. Things have been this way for some time.
These are the same statistics that some of us have been hearing since high school sex-ed, and it doesn't change.
The hunger for progress is there. That's why every time a campaign like "#MeToo" sprouts up on the internet, survivors make an effort to spread awareness and put a face to the stark statistics.
Awareness is critical to solving the issue of sexual assault. In order to stir up passion, people need to see that their loved ones have been through traumatic experiences.
Awareness isn't enough.
In order to stop both the mighty and intimidating predators like Weinstein and Bill Cosby as well as the unnerving, degrading catcaller on the street who shouts creepy phrases at women as they pass by, a culture change is necessary.
This shouldn't be packaged up with a bow and neatly sold to the public as a "women's issue" as it has been for so long.
It's time for sexual assault and harassment to be viewed as issues of human decency and common good.
It's been time for too long.