I’m new to high school. In my first few months as a high-school student, I’ve seen a lot more sexualized behavior. Kids are older and more experienced. Some of them are becoming sexually active. I don’t know anyone who has been sexually assaulted or raped, but boys often talk about girls’ bodies, how they look, and what they would do to the girl if they had the chance. I hear girls do that, too. They might talk about how amazing a guy’s abs are or how attractive they are, but the girls are not as aggressive as the boys. Thankfully, we have an “IHS” (Identity Health and Society) class in which we talk about other people's experiences with sexism and how it affects them or their families. Most people talk about themselves or their sisters being treated differently by parents because girls are in greater danger than boys. My parents, for example, are more protective of my sister than my brother and me. My sister isn’t allowed to be out doing things alone when I can do whatever I want as long as I get home before my curfew. So far, in IHS, topics like sexual assault and LGBTQ rights have popped up. When our teachers go over this material, if it’s a sensitive topic, we can choose to be silent, or we can talk about how we feel, think, or experience it. If we didn’t have this class to talk about topics like sexual assault, we wouldn’t think as deeply about this topic. Open discussion is important because millions of people are opening up about being assaulted, and it is helpful to have some knowledge about the topic if we ever want to change this misogynistic culture.
We see misogyny everywhere but currently, it is being mainly being exposed to politics, and media. According to ABC news, “Men in entertainment, media, and politics in the U.S. and beyond have faced allegations ranging from inappropriate behavior to forced sexual misconduct to rape.” I’m not sure if public figures get called out than other people, but we hear more about it when they do. I’m pretty sure people who are not famous get called out more than public figures, it just seems like a bigger deal when allegations are made against a famous person because more people are interested. I think that victims coming out is a good thing because it heightens awareness, and makes it easier to believe other victims when they come forward. Our president has been accused of sexual assault 19 times. Each time another accusation is made, it’s easier to believe because it shows a pattern of behavior. Having a president accused of sexual assault this many times means that people who support or voted for Trump also support a sexual abuser, which is not okay. It’s good that Trump is being exposed because he’s committed terrible crimes, and it also shows how big the problem is.
Sexual assault is a big problem in America. In a story published by The Atlantic, 200 people in a room were asked if they had been sexually assaulted, and only 6 or 7 raised their hands. Then everyone closed their eyes and they were asked the same question, and almost everyone raised their hand. This shows how big the problem is and how people hide past assaults. I think people hide these assaults because they feel ashamed of them. I’m not entirely sure on why people would hide their shame, but I assume that it’s because they feel more guilty for an action which they think they could’ve prevented, even though it really it wasn’t their fault. In the same Atlantic article, the author states, “Uncovering the colossal scale of the problem is revolutionary in its own right.” When more people come out, this creates a snowball effect, where more people feel encouraged to openly share their own experiences. Knowing how many people are getting assaulted has already helped us uncover more about the problem, but it hasn’t changed the root of the problem yet.
The way that we can change a culture that produces sexual assault is by trying to prevent it in the first place. An organization in Washington D.C. called Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) helps raise public awareness about rape and what we can do to stop it. According to their website, “The founders wanted to shift the responsibility of deterring harm away from women by promoting healthy, non-violent masculinity.” Shifting the responsibility from women to men is something that shouldn’t have to happen in the first place. Telling women that it’s their responsibility to prevent assault is like telling consumers to not buy something that doesn’t work. It’s not the consumers’ fault for buying something that was already broken. To fix the problem, they would have to tell the manufacturers to not send out broken products in the first place. It’s the same way in both scenarios. It shouldn’t be the victim's fault. In MCSR seminars, when boys are taught to control themselves and discouraged from behaving violently, they’re inspired “to create their own positive definitions of masculinity, manhood, and strength; develop healthy relationships with others; embrace the concept of personal responsibility; work in partnership with female peers; and do their part to end violence and build safe communities.” When boys become more aware and more mature, they will be more knowledgeable about socializing and consent. If enough boys are raised this way, we can stop rape.
Sexual assault has been a really big topic in the past year due to celebrities, media figures and politicians being accused of assault or harassment. This behavior has been going on for a very long time, but, in the past year, people have started to come out about their experiences in greater numbers than before. When isolated people used to come out, it was common for no one to believe them, but when people started to come out in larger numbers, this created a snowball effect. Society has to change. Too often, when boys or men assault someone, they don’t realize that they’ve done something wrong. This can be changed if they’re taught consent and empathy, and this can be done through groups like MCSR or in schools. At my school, IHS is an important class because we get to learn about our society and understand our peers’ points of view. We get a space where we can openly talk about how we feel or what we think. At this moment in time, it is important to have this kind of space so we can get a sense of what is going on and how we can change it.