The Daily Illini

It’s time to step up and prevent sexual assault

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It’s time to step up and prevent sexual assault

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

For the past few weeks, women have been sharing stories of sexual assault and harassment through using a hashtag to convey the problems that routinely occur.

But the #MeToo movement was one that started a decade ago by Tarana Burke, and sexual assault is a prevalent issue.  To avoid letting this movement fall onto deaf ears once again, it’s time for those who have kept quiet as a means of “keeping the peace” around their friends who are known to treat women poorly to finally step up. 

Women are sharing some of their most vulnerable moments, but men are failing to recognize their part in all of this. It does not necessarily matter if they would never sexually assault someone themselves. It is the fact that sexual assault occurs so often that makes women feel scared around any man, good or bad. In an elevator while you’re alone with a man, in the bar after you lost track of your friends, in a dimly lit parking garage, that feeling of fear is always present, even if nothing happens.  

Too often, sexual assault is talked about in the passive voice. “A woman was molested” or “a young girl was raped” are often chosen to talk about the situation, leaving out the whole other side of the issue — the role of the perpetrator.

The abundance of posts that piled up as women allied together against rape culture made a statement, but it is one that we can’t allow to fade into the rest of our social media timelines and slowly out of our minds as time goes on.

For one thing, coming forward and identifying as a sexual assault survivor presents an opportunity to be invalidated — if others choose to not believe you. This fear can lead women to keep quiet to avoid causing further chaos, especially if their attacker is someone who is well known in their social circle; someone others trust.

The first step anyone should take if someone shares details with them of an assault they survived is to say, “I believe you.”

But support doesn’t have to stop there. Because so many women are survivors of different forms of assault, we all probably know more perpetrators than we realize. An ally for women isn’t just someone who gets upset by the frequency of these reports; They are someone who chooses to do something about it.

On a campus where drinking is prevalent – whether that be in bars or at a frat party – we all have the opportunity to call out our peers every weekend, or at the very least remind them how they should be acting around women. 

If a woman is groped at a party, or talked about crudely in a group chat, that’s the moment something needs to be said. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. The aftermath of a sexual assault will linger with a survivor more than temporarily upsetting one of your friends after calling them out.

Men and women alike have chosen to stay quiet to avoid these “awkward” conversations for too long, which could ultimately lead a perpetrator to keep pushing people’s boundaries.

When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, dozens of people came forward with their stories. Women shared their stories of assault to help others not feel alone, and some men, including celebrities such as Ben Affleck, said they had a hunch something was going on.

If just one of those men had chosen to say something, it’s possible that years of abuse and misconduct could have been prevented, or at least addressed.

Now more than ever, men need to start intervening, accepting a role in these atrocities where they play a part before the aftermath, before assault is talked about in the passive voice once more.

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