**Trigger Warning: Sexual assault**
What’s going on these days with Brett Kavanaugh having been confirmed to the Supreme Court is horrifying, and it’s a perfect testament to how relevant the topic of this article is in today’s society. Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford – one of Kavanaugh’s now three accusers – gave a heart-wrenching account of what Kavanaugh did to her back in high school; not because she wanted to, but because she felt it was her moral duty to. And yet, there are plenty of people who find themselves sympathetic towards Kavanaugh. They think he is innocent, deserving of such a high-ranking position of power, and are thrilled to see him confirmed as a justice in the Supreme Court. And what does Dr. Blasey-Ford get? Death threats, and people calling her a liar; telling her she waited too long to come forward, as if there’s some sort of timeline survivors of sexual assault are supposed to follow.
Sexual assault and abuse have been going on forever, sadly, but thanks to the ‘Me Too’ movement, and other movements created within the past few years, plenty of women, and a few men, have been more willing to come forward to confront their abusers, before they’re able to strike again.
Being informed about an issue is the first step to preventing it.
As if the accounts these women are giving aren’t brutal enough to digest, the statistics are almost as awful. Based on data taken from unwomen.org, it’s estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced some form of sexual abuse, or physical violence from a partner, or non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that it’s actually up to 70% of women that have experienced sexual and/or physical violence from a partner in their lifetime. Going off of that, women who have been physically/sexually abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and in some regions of the world, almost 1.5 times more likely to have HIV, as opposed to women who haven’t experienced partner-related violence.
Even for women who aren’t sexually-active, or aren’t in relationships in general, statistics show that around 25% of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, or on public transportation. It’s almost as if we can’t go anywhere, or do anything without being sexually targeted in some shape or form. One statistic that’s especially repulsive, and almost unbearable to hear is that around 120 million girls worldwide (that’s a little more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced-intercourse, or forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. 120 MILLION. Other statistics include: nearly three out of four women who are trafficked are done so for sexual-exploitation, one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, and 91% of rape, and sexual assault victims are female.
Even with such high numbers, rape is THE most under-reported crime, with an estimated 63% of them not being reported, most likely because the victim fears the very unfortunate, yet very real possibility that THEIR reputation would be the one tarnished. And yes – some women do lie. Some stories of sexual assault are fabricated, but that shouldn’t diminish the credibility of the truthful women who speak up for themselves. It is really worth dismissing the hordes of victims of sexual assault simply because a few women lied? It should be obvious from the aforementioned statistics that the data is heavily in favor of the majority being truthful about their experiences with sexual assault. It shouldn’t be THAT difficult to believe what we claim.
Even for women who aren’t sexually-active, or aren’t in relationships in general, statistics show that around 25% of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, or on public transportation. It’s almost as if we can’t go anywhere, or do anything without being sexually targeted in some shape or form.
After this overwhelmingly disheartening information, I bet you’re wondering what you can do to help. With so many crimes being unreported, or ignored, it can be easy for us to feel helpless in the fight against sexual violence. One thing we can all do to help is to simply sign this petition.
Its purpose is to pass the International Violence Against Women Act, which would not only improve the response to violence against women and girls, it would also help to prevent it. It’s sad that we have to come to these measures, but victims – which unfortunately could be any of us, any day – need our help. There are other petitions we can sign in order to stop letting convicted rapists walk free, and to end sexual harassment in the workplace and so on. Those links can be found at the bottom of this article.
Other things we can do as allies is to educate ourselves even further about the statistics and culture of sexual assault. Being informed about an issue is the first step to preventing it. Learn about bystander intervention here.
It’s super easy to spread the word about these issues to your followers and let them know how they can help as well. Be vocal, Teach your children not to rape, not to not get raped. Teach them that no matter what they are wearing, they’re not asking for it. Teach consent. Learn that only yes is yes and no means no. There are plenty of challenges when it comes to this topic, but plenty more ways to help.
Volunteering at a domestic abuse shelter is another way to help, since so many cases of domestic abuse include sexual abuse. Search for shelters in your area as most cities should have at least one. While you’re at it, you can become an activist for women’s rights, and against the sexual abuse of women. Anyone can do it these days with the prevalence of social media in our society. It’s super easy to spread the word about these issues to your followers and let them know how they can help as well. Be vocal, Teach your children not to rape, not to not get raped. Teach them that no matter what they are wearing, they’re not asking for it. Teach consent. Learn that only yes is yes and no means no. There are plenty of challenges when it comes to this topic, but plenty more ways to help. One last way you can help is to BELIEVE WOMEN. Believe us when we come forward and when we’re begging for help. Stand with us, stand up for us, and stand behind us, ready to rally when the time comes. Realize that when we come forward, we are doing so because we know it’s the right thing to do in order to empower other women and to ensure the same tragedies don’t happen to our mothers, daughters, sisters, or friends.
Links to more petitions, campaigns, and resources:
- End Sexual Violence: https://www.equalitynow.org/end_sexual_violence_campaign
- End Sex Trafficking: https://www.equalitynow.org/end_sex_trafficking_campaign
- End Harmful Practices (such as FGM – female genital mutilation): https://www.equalitynow.org/end_harmful_practices_campaign
- End “Sex Tourism”: https://www.equalitynow.org/end_sex_tourism
- End Child Marriages (which most often leads to children having sex with someone much older much too early): https://www.equalitynow.org/end_child_marriage
- Organizations that speak out in defense of sexual assault survivors and give survivors the space to be heard: https://www.equalitynow.org/courage
- National Sexual Assault hotline (if you or someone you know is being sexually assaulted, PLEASE call): 1-800-656-4673
- nsvrc.org (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)