The phrase “empowered women, empower women” is now more important than ever. A growing number of women have joined together to demand equality across all aspects of life: work, the sports world, healthcare, education, the legal system, the list goes on. Within the last 5 years, a number of women have been standing up and saying #MeToo or #TimesUp. You’ve probably seen at least one of these hashtags trending on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and since it’s April, I’d like to take the time to talk about sexual assault and the various movements women have cultivated in response to this horrific act.
For starters, it’s important to know what sexual assault is. Sexual assault is an act completed against a victim’s will or when the victim is unable to give consent due to age, illness, disability, or intoxication. It typically involves physical force and coercion, or threats of physical force. Sexual assault is sexual behavior including fondling or penetration. Sexual harassment is patterns of repeated, unwanted, sexual advances, which can be physical or verbal.
Unfortunately, because of the rape culture society has adopted, women hesitate to report their experiences. Rape culture minimizes the impact of rape, objectifies women, blames the victim (“she deserved it,” “she asked for it,”), and supports men being aggressive with sexual partners and encourages the excuse “men will be men” You wonder why women waver on reporting an assault.
The #MeToo movement was started by Tarana Burke as a means of speaking up for low wage-earning women of color who were experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. In 2018, the term was used by women in Hollywood standing up against people like Harvey Weinstein, which quickly led to the creation of the TimesUp movement. With the two varying movements, we can’t let one overpower the other. We must acknowledge both and work to support all women who are victims of sexual harassment.
Often times, women question whether what they experienced counts as #MeToo. I know I’m definitely guilty of this. But now I know that the unwelcomed catcalls I regularly received walking to and from work in Washington D.C. is in fact sexual harassment. And yes, being checked out from head-to-toe then being told “you’re so fine” and followed and gawked at on multiple occasions by the same man in my office building is harassment. And yes, being groped at college parties is assault. Telling someone no, then them ignoring you and continuing to do so is also assault. Never question it. If you are touched in a way you wish to not be then it is assault. If someone makes a sexual joke towards you and you’re uncomfortable then yes, it is harassment.
Since the beginning of 2020 I’ve been saying it’s the year of the girl, I can feel it. #MeToo and #TimesUP girls. It pains me every time I read of another woman reporting a case. This year is all about women’s empowerment and standing up.
Ladies, never put up with a man’s ignorance and disrespect. You deserve the utmost respect and if a guy isn’t going to give you that then he’s not worth it. His loss, not yours.
And guys, if you’re reading this, don’t just idly stand by as you witness a “friend” make an inappropriate sexual joke about a girl or witness someone being assaulted or harassed. Take a stand! Witnessing and not saying something is just as bad as participating.
People need to stand up and be a voice for those who feel they are unable to report their experiences. Women must stick together and empower other women around them. For too long women have been put down, hushed, and mistreated. As women, we mustn’t belittle other women. We must encourage them and help them find their voice. We must educate young girls and boys on how to treat people fairly and respectfully. We must teach them it’s not okay to harass or assault people. Let’s put a stop to this together.