Awareness of Sexual Assault and Rape in Georgia

Somewhere in the world, a female is being sexual assaulted or raped while you are reading this. And by the time you get to the end of this article, two or three more will have been assaulted or raped. The majority of these incidents will never be reported, and of those which are, the majority of perpetrators will never be punished.

The victims will live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.

Some female victims are women. Many are only young girls (an in our society where it is “normal” to call women “girls,” let’s be clear—a woman is any female over 18 years of age).

Some victims will face permanent mental or physical injury from their assault. Others will obtain a potentially life altering sexually transmitted disease from their perpetrator. And in many countries, the victim will end up being forced to marry their victimizer.  Recently there’s been a flurry of female sexual assault and sexual harassment victims coming for to tell their stories. This is a phenomenal thing, in that not only are victimizers being outed, but it has begun a sort of tidal wave of acceptance, a feeling that there should be no shame or embarrassment for victims to speak up about their experiences and traumas.

 

Legal Definitions of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Violence

Sexual assault awareness is on the rise! So we should look at a few definitions–what exactly is the difference between sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence?

Sexual harassment: Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment refers to “offensive remarks about a person’s sex, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors.” This is not an all-inclusive definition.

Sexual assault is:

“Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

Further, per Professor Michele Landis Dauber of Stanford University, “a hallmark of sexual assault is some form of sexual contact that is with an intimate body part of the victim or penetration or oral copulation that occurs without the consent and against the wishes or will of the victim.”

Sexual violence is:

“Any sexual act or an attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments, or advances, acts to traffic or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”’

So harassment, by and large, is written or verbal or uses non-verbal body language, whereas sexual assault or violence involves physical contact between two or more persons. Harassment is still an assault on an individual, but it is more an assault on the person’s mind, on their sense of dignity or self-esteem.

Harassing behavior often has a direct link to assault, which is one reason why it is so vital to confront harassers instantly and try to nip the situation in the bud. Persons who commit sexual harassment often feel enabled or even encouraged when the inappropriateness of their actions is not exposed. This can and does all too often create cultures of sexual misbehavior, cultures which become normalized and grow worse. Over time, and often without society even noticing, the boundaries of misconduct are pushed further. Behavior becomes more and more inappropriate, eventually being considered within the bounds of being normal.

 

Examples of Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct

The exposure of so much sexual harassment within the film and television culture is the perfect proof of this concept. In an industry long known for sexual discrimination and bias, we are now suddenly getting confirmation of some systemic issues related to outright sexual assault.

What do Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Donald Trump all have in common, other than being sexual harassers and/or assaulters? They all spent years in the film and television industry, where their behavior was accepted as “normal.”  Sixty-five year old film producer Harvey Weinstein is one of the biggest names in the Hollywood industry. His scandal now involves dozens of women coming forth with serious complaints of criminal activity, some dating back several years…and meanwhile A-list actors continue to come forth stating they were aware of some (if not all) of his behavior.  Alleged victims include Salma Hayek, Sean Young, Molly Ringwald, and Rose McGowan, who has been extremely vocal in “calling out Hollywood.” But perhaps in part due to the Hollywood culture, which is similar to the Las Vegas motto of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” most of Weinsteins accusers kept silent for years, even decades.

As actor Colin Firth stated, Weinstein “was a powerful and frightening man to stand up to.” But the issue is far larger than one man. Harvey just happens to be the current poster child of a prevailing culture. Minnesota Senator and former comedy writer and Saturday Night Live star Al Franken was deeply embedded in the celebrity culture. As one of the original SNL writers, Franken came into contact with the industry’s biggest stars starting in the late 1970’s…long before current acceptable standards of political correctness existed. Sexual harassment and misogyny was very much alive and well in that era and in that culture, and Franken’s behavior was, in all likelihood, a partial product of his surroundings. This is by no means making an excuse for it. On the contrary, it is to point out just how prevalent such wrong behavior was (and is) and how much influence the normalization of misconduct has on all who come into contact with it.

Matt Lauer, host of Today on NBC, was raking in $25 million a year before he was fired by the network of allegations of sexual misconduct. Donald Trump, a former popular reality TV star on The Apprentice, has a litany of allegations against him, and audio recordings exist of his misogynistic comments. Indeed, Trump summarized the mentality quite nicely:

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them,” Trump stated. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

 

Fighting Back against Sexual Assault and Rape

The #MeToo social movement has risen to help address this issue. #MeToo, originally created on MySpace by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, but later grown in October 2017 thanks to the celebrity status of actress Alyssa Milano. #MeToo helps assault victims to feel empowered to come forth and openly accuse their victimizers. It shows support and, perhaps most importantly, it shows that people are willing to believe the victims…which is a challenge too many have faced. The problem of “no one will believe me” has kept far too many females from alerting authorities of the crime which was committed against them.[/fusion_text][fusion_text]Hollywood culture is a long way from changing, and it is only the tip of one iceberg in an ocean full of them. It is hard to say that something positive could ever come from the alleged actions of men like Harvey Weinstein…but we can all agree that there is much hope to be found in this brave new era of intolerance for such sexually deviant behavior.

Sexual assault, may your days be numbered. And to those victims who were assaulted during the time it took you to read this article–may be recover as best as possible.

Here is how to report sexual assault in the United States.

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