A Culture of Silence


Taken in Moss, Norway, this sticker decries sexual assault and proclaims the importance of consent. Photo Credit: Julie Reid

It’s time we talk about sexual assault. Every ninety-eight seconds, a person in the United States is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes a child becomes a victim of sexual assault and one in every seven victims of sexual assault is a child under the age of six.

To clarify, sexual assault is a form of sexual violence that encompasses sexual harassment, groping, rape, child sexual abuse, and sexual torture. Sexual contact between two individuals becomes assault when a person is unable to, does not, or withdraws their consent. However, despite the fact that sexual assault is so prevalent in our society, with one in every four women and one in every six men are sexually assaulted during their lifetime, only 310 out of every 1,000 assaults get reported. Furthermore, the repercussions for these reprehensible actions are almost non-existent as only 6 out of every 1,000 rapists receive prison time for their crimes and the median time served for sexual assault is only 48 months.

However, sometimes these sentences are even shorter. Former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received a paltry six months in the Santa Clara County jail for three felonies: assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, and three years of probation. People are serving life sentences in jail for non-violent drug charges while people like Brock Turner get to walk free. However, things began to change around October of this year.

On October 5th, The New York Times published an article detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against hotshot Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.  By the end of October, over fifty women had come forward to accuse Weinstein of everything from sexual assault to harassment. These accusations have seen him expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fired from his own production company, The Weinstein Company, suspended from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and resigning from the Directors Guild of America.

Weinstein’s fall from grace has inspired a cavalcade of men and women to come forward with their own experiences of sexual harassment. From Hollywood to D.C., the elite across America have begun to face the repercussions of their actions and the “impenetrable wall of silence around violence” is being shattered…and it’s about time.

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