Our society has been shaken by the sudden surge in appalling, chilling accounts of sexual assault recently exposed because of the ‘MeToo’ campaign. Overall, the movement has been positive and encouraging with many victims seeking support to move forward from their experience and the urgent need for change has been accepted. However, why has the matter been allowed to escalate to this catastrophic level before any action has been taken? The ‘MeToo’ activist group was founded in 2005 by Tarana Burke to aid survivors of sexual assault. With only little knowledge of this group, actress Alyssa Milano used the MeToo on Twitter to show her support for victims after serious allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public. Receiving instant media attention, the hashtag trended on social media and was used more than 12 million times in the weeks that followed. Now a worldwide symbol of support and recognition it also became used by victims to share their own heart-wrenching experiences over social media. Like a ripple effect, one by one more victims decided to speak up, each influenced by the courage of another. The impact of this was huge. Despite media attention now subsiding, heroic victims must not be forgotten. We must take serious action now to prevent these catastrophic events happening again in future. If this does not happen then was the extreme pain endured by so many worth it or is this just another aspect of our sinister society that we become oblivious to.
An increase in victim blaming has meant that speaking out after an experience with sexual assault or abuse can mean that victims face barrier after barrier to overcome in the ongoing fight for justice. Innocent, admirable victims are all too often bulldozed with backlash by people directing the blame towards them. The fear of disapproval in society can tear apart victims leaving them panic-stricken at the thought of speaking up. Can you blame them when everyday women face comments like, “if she dresses like that what did she expect?” or “it is her own fault, she should not have had so much to drink.” It is appalling that 1/3 of people currently believe that if a woman is flirtatious then it is her own fault if she is raped. The stereotypical belief involving victims of sexual assault is that it is always their fault. This has resulted in sexual assault being the most under reported crime. This must change now. Action must start by addressing sexual assault allegations as seriously as other crimes. Astoundingly, only 5.7% of rape cases that are reported to the police result in a conviction.
On 18th August 1920: women won the right to vote. Gone were the days of inequalities between men and women affecting our everyday life – or so we thought. We are almost a century on but has anything really changed? Despite previous victories against sexism in the past, women are still seen as inferior to men and objectified, controlled and sexualised by them daily. Recently, allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault and abuse have caused an avalanche of fury worldwide. Countless numbers of oblivious women were lured in by Weinstein believing that he would help boost their career only instead, they were ruthlessly assaulted by him, their silence bought with the threat hanging over their head that their career would be destroyed if they did not.
Choosing to take the first step into regaining normality after an assault is like descending into a bottomless pit of uncertainty. Despite the overpowering fear of failure and knowing that the result could be either life changing or catastrophic, victims are still brave enough to take this risk and speak out in hope of getting justice and support. These are the extraordinary and empowering people that show others they are not alone, helping them to take that first step too. A ‘MeToo’ workshop, held for teenage girls, asked them to first answer an effectiveness survey anonymously (so as not to make them feel uncomfortable) and then they were asked to simply write ‘MeToo’ on the sheet if they needed support or help with the matter. 20 out of 30 girls in the class had written ‘MeToo’. These shocking statistics show the scale of sexual assault in the younger generation and it will only get worse if no action is taken. There is help and support available and organisations like ‘MeToo’ have seen an increase in the numbers of people reaching out in search of help. During 2017-18, 650,000 emotional support and counselling sessions for victims were held, increasing in almost 50% from the year before. Help for those who need it is more widely available but not everyone has access to it. By persisting in the fight to aid all victims in need we are providing them with the support they deserve to get their life back that has been ruthlessly stolen from.
“I felt isolated and had panic attacks on a daily basis.” These are the words of Katie Baudon speaking out after a life changing experience at Kent University in 2015. She was raped by another student on her first day of university. Instead of experiencing the anticipation, eagerness and nerves of starting a new chapter in life like the rest of her peers, Katie was left traumatised by her ordeal. A place where she should have been able to thrive and learn is where her endless nightmares take place. In her mind she is left isolated in a sea of thoughts, the wave of each horrific memory from that unthinkable day pulling her under, leaving her drowning. Our society has become so shameful that students are desperately struggling to feel protected in an environment they are led to believe is safe. According to a recent survey 70% of females attending a college or university revealed that they had experienced sexual harassment or assault but only 6% felt that they could report the incident to their college or university. Choosing to move onto higher education is where young adults are supposed to gain independence, have new experiences and find out who they are. They should not be forced to miss out on these lifelong memories and live in constant fear. Since the ‘MeToo’ campaign universities in the UK have grudgingly admitted they have a severe unspoken problem and some now try to handle allegations when the police will not, but it is not enough. We need more action to be taken. We need our society to feel safe again. We need to change, and it is not too late if the effort and time is spent understanding what victim’s needs are and how to prevent future assaults. Comment by 027khunt: excellent. Excellent research, excellent use of persuasive techniques – well done.