As a student abroad, I’m always concerned about my safety, luckily, I live in a relatively safe city and not much happens here. But whenever I’m walking alone at night I’m on hyper alert to everything going on around me. I avoid crowds of men, I avoid eye contact, I avoid poorly lit streets and I walk with my keys in my hand to feel safer when walking the streets alone. As a woman, these are necessary measures to avoid being another victim of an assault.
In the past few months, I’ve seen the hashtag “me too” popping up everywhere. At first, it seemed like something that was happening to celebrities and people who generally garner a lot of attention. So I thought, “Ow well maybe it’s a case of misinterpreting a gesture or something that was said,” I mean, we’re a very sensitive generation, where the slightest misstep can brand you a racist, chauvinist, sexist, extremist, bigot and whatnot. Me doubting someone who is brave enough to speak about their experience further goes to prove how ingrained it is in our society to doubt victims of sexual harassment and assault.
But then as more and more people kept coming forward on cases like Harvey Weinstein, in which it’s been alleged that this was a public secret kept by Hollywood. As I kept hearing about Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Roy More, Al Franken and dozens of others who have been accused of sexual misconduct I’ve realized that this cannot be a simple case of misinterpretation.
It goes deeper than that, it seems that this culture of sexual misconduct is deeply ingrained in our society. Not just in the States, because if you look at the #metoo stories it becomes clear that this has been happening all over the world and for a long time. If we look at a case here in the Netherlands where a radio show host decided to pull a prank on a female guest by having a streaker come into the studio, it becomes clear how lines have been blurred around what constitutes sexual assault. Because let’s be clear whether this was meant as a joke or not it is assault. This female artist was crying and completely distraught when this happened but later went back to the same radio station to “clear the air” at which point the host apologized and said he was wrong. But is an apology enough to make up for his actions?
It’s come to the point in our society where women are not recognizing sexual misconduct as such because it’s so common that these actions are brushed off as “men will be men”. To clarify the legal definition of sexual misconduct is; “Sexual misconduct encompasses a range of behavior used to obtain sexual gratification against another’s will or at the expense of another. Sexual Misconduct includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and any conduct of a sexual nature that is without consent, or has the effect of threatening or intimidating the person against whom such conduct is directed."
A recent study out of Rush University and Binghamton University concluded that men have a blurred understanding of consent and that’s nothing new. But what caught my attention was that the lead author of this study suggests that the cause for this blurred understanding could come from two sources. The first source being the notion of “token resistance” which is when women put up resistance towards sexual advances to uphold an image of decorum while it is expected for men to push through this “false” resistance. The other source is suspected to come from seeing these behaviors being acted out by those in the social circle of the men. In my humble opinion, this conclusion is a cop-out. It’s basically saying women play “hard to get” so it’s their own fault for playing games and to add fuel to the fire they say, “but everyone is doing it, so how can men know better?” As my mom used to say, “If all your friends jump off a bridge, would you jump too?”
The fact that all these victims have spoken up about their experiences and outed all these predators has had a positive impact on the world. That’s clear if you consider that in December Time magazine’s person of the year 2017 is not an individual but a movement, the so-called ‘silence breakers’ who spoke up about sexual harassment and assault. More victims now feel empowered to share their own experiences and I sincerely hope that all predators now know that their time has passed, the time of victims feeling shame and staying silent is gone. If actors, musicians, directors, and senators are being brought to justice for their actions, these predators better believe that their actions won’t stay hidden for long, because in the truth always comes out.
To everyone out there who has been a victim of sexual assault, I’d like to say that I believe you, it’s not your fault, you were not asking for it, be brave and report the incident. Seek support and know that you are not alone, you will get through this!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blogpost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Phryme Magazine.