Sexual Assault in the #MeToo Era

Growing up in a small town, it was easy to be oblivious to the big bad world. It seemed to be that bad things only happened externally. We were taught to be careful and use extra caution with strangers – especially those that came from outside the perfect safe bubble we were raised in. What is difficult to stomach at times is the bigger picture – we are part of the big bad world. Whether you live in small town USA or in a borough of New York City, you are a part of the world. While you might be a small speck in the grand scheme of things, your actions impact others around you – and that will later impact others, and so on. 

Luckily for me, my childhood was innocent and I was left to my own devices – my parents were caring and the people around me seemed to care about my well-being. Up to the age of 14, I’d heard of scary things happening to people but I never imagined it happening to me. But it did – more than once and in different forms.

In the United States, 4 of every 5 women who are raped are raped before the age of 25. Approximately 40% of women who have been raped were assaulted before the age of 18. This is scary, scary statistic. We oftentimes overlook the other factors in sexual assault. While rape is horrible, disgusting, and unforgivable, it is much more common for other forms of sexual assault to occur. 

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual activity or contact that you do not consent to” (Office on Women’s Health). This can include:

- Any type of sexual contact with someone who cannot consent. 

This includes people who are underage, have an intellectual disability, or is passed out (caused by drugs or alcohol) or those who are unable to respond (such as caused by sleeping). 

- Any type of sexual contact with someone who does not consent. 

-Rape: “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part of object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” 

- Attempted rape

- Sexual Coercion: Unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. 

- Sexual contact with a child 

- Fondling or unwanted touching above or under clothes

- Voyeurism: Watching private sexual acts without consent 

- Exhibitionism: Exposing oneself in public

- Sexual harassment or threats: Unwelcome behavior or comments made by one person to another. 

- Forcing someone to pose for sexual pictures 

- Sending someone unwanted sexts, whether it be sexual photos or messages. 

 

What comes at the forefront of sexual assault and harassment is the lack of understanding of consent. Whether it is not understood or blatantly ignored by some, I cannot say. However, it is clear that it is necessary to speak on consent and what it actually is in order to educate. Consent means that you are given a clear yes. The lack of a “no” does not mean you have been given the go ahead. Consent means that you know and understand and know what is going on, you know what you want to do, you are able to say what you don’t and do want to do, and you are aware that you are giving consent. 

The biggest thing to remember is that consent is an ongoing process and not a one-time thing. While you may have given consent to sexual activity prior, it is necessary to remember that past consent does not mean future consent. You can always back out. You can always say no. Saying yes to a sexual activity does not indicate consent for all types of sexual activity. 

 

What is not considered consent in sexual activity is:

  • Silence.
  • Having consented in the past 
  • Being in a relationship. 
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • Not fighting back. 
  • Sexy clothing, dancing, or flirting. 

(U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).

The situations and individual thousands of cases that have been brought up and into the light in the recent years have allowed a new perspective to sexual assault. Thousands of men and women have found the courage to stand up and bring to light their individual stories. The courage and sheer bravery that one has to have to take their tragedy and turn it into something beautiful is enormous. I am thankful to the hundreds of people that have joined this movement and brought to the public's attention the reality of the world around us. 

If you believe yourself or your loved ones have undergone sexual assault of any form, reach out to services on your individual college campuses. They are there to help. 

 

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3