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#MeToo: Awareness Is Only A Beginning

If you haven't seen it yet, there is a hashtag floating around the past week that says simply #MeToo. This is in response to the growing fire storm in the media this past week about Harvey Weinstein's despicable behavior towards women he worked with. Many have come forward alleging instances of unwanted sexual advances, sexual touching, and even rape. Additionally, some other male actors have come under close scrutiny after being confronted about their own behaviors towards fellow female actresses in Hollywood. Much of what has always been acknowledged in the movie industry is now becoming a banner to rally under for the respectful treatment of female peers not just in the acting industry, but everywhere across the United States.

 

But, as I posted my own recognition of this very important hashtag, it brought out a lot of deeper reflection on what this is all about. This is not just about women coming forward and sharing that they have been sexually harassed or abused in life so that others do not feel alone in their suffering. This is about male victims too. And it is a physical showing of hands on the national stage. It is a movement that is putting a sea of faces out there for all to see and measure. It is showing the grim reality that it isn't a rare occurrence at home, work, school, or public bar scene. Turns out that sexual harassment and assault are more common place in our communities than most want to admit or ever realized. This is mostly in part due to under reporting to appropriate authorities. Under reporting is a tell tale symptom of the lack of support we have in our nation for those who suffer sex crimes. As a victim, I can appreciate this feeling of lack of support. In my case, police officers had my father's own admission, and they still insisted I go back home later that night after everything was brought out in the open. 

 

This is the cruel reality  for many sexual abuse victims. 

 

An even crueler reality? There is a growing awareness in this country of what is happening, but it stops there and isn't blossoming into a larger community outreach to fix this problem. Case in point. Friend of mine and I were discussing my own sexual abuse and assault experiences, and he made a comment along the lines of this kind of thing is all too common a story among the women he knows. He then recounted how one previous girl friend had been raped by an ex that broke into her home one night, another by her father growing up. Another close friend of his had been molested by family members growing up. Then he recalled his own half sister having been raped repeatedly by his estranged father. He found out about this from his half sister some years ago. Even worse, her mother knew about it, and even watched and yelled at her during the event because it was considered a just punishment. All of this he found out years later from his half sister, and at that point he pretty much decided he would avoid his dad from then on.

 

But our conversation didn't stop there. He then realized he knew at least two men who had been sexually abused in their youth. And then of course his own experience of being fondled by a Boy Scout troop leader when he was young. He often down plays this experience though, as he doesn't see how it has affected him other than it being awkward, and never went further than fondling. Nonetheless, our conversation really made him put into words what many are realizing this week: The majority of people he knows have been sexually abused, molest, assaulted, etc. 

 

What does this awareness accomplish after this moment? What do we do with this shared knowledge and perspective once we have it? Does it mean he is now more sensitive to trauma? Possibly. Is he going to call up his local city leaders and state level officials to start putting money into programs to help victims report the abuse? Maybe push for a counseling initiative? Or insist we get comprehensive sexual education in schools? Probably not. 

 

What do we do once we get others aware of the epidemic that is sexual abuse?

 

Not everyone can be the activist that is beating down the doors of legislators to get funding in place. The reality is that this is where the local community has to step in and find their own initiatives to develop solutions to under reporting, lack of education on sexual consent, and poorly funded crisis counseling. It could be something as simple as volunteers getting schools on board to do two week elective classes on sex ed and consent. Or volunteering at crisis centers to man the phones and be that rock for victims to cling to at 2 a.m. in the morning after being hurt by someone they trusted. Awareness is a key part of the problem, but it is not enough. We cannot just leave it as sexually abusive behavior happens everywhere to everyone. 

 

If you cannot contribute money to funded education or crisis programs, consider contributing your time. Or at the very least, sit down and have that conversation with your kids, your parents, your neighbors, or a teen that you know is possibly struggling with these issues. Have the conversation and get them help immediately.  Don't just be a visible reminder of the trauma, help fight it any way you think you can.  

 

#MeToo

 

 



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Bluegrass I am very sorry to hear of your abuse. It is a terrible blight that needs more attention.

 

There are some important questions that need answering on this topic (At least for me) in order to understand how we might best combat sexual abuse.

 

1) Is sexual abuse on the rise, or is it simply becoming more widely known and reported? If its on the rise then there has to be an explanation.

2) If it is rising is it possible that the increase is at least partly due to the increasing lowering value of relationships and the 'free love' attitudes? This in turn could devalue a person in the minds of other people.

 

Just some thoughts on the topic.

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15 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Bluegrass I am very sorry to hear of your abuse. It is a terrible blight that needs more attention.

 

There are some important questions that need answering on this topic (At least for me) in order to understand how we might best combat sexual abuse.

 

1) Is sexual abuse on the rise, or is it simply becoming more widely known and reported? If its on the rise then there has to be an explanation.

2) If it is rising is it possible that the increase is at least partly due to the increasing lowering value of relationships and the 'free love' attitudes? This in turn could devalue a person in the minds of other people.

 

Just some thoughts on the topic.

Both are very good questions. 

 

The reality is that it is on the decline. See the BJS summary report here (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv15_sum.pdf), it states that "From 1993 to 2015, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older."  This is for violent crime in general, which includes rape and sexual assault too. This is a marvelous thing-- in general terms. When we get the actual break down? Here on page 2, you can see the rape/sexual assault numbers. This is from BJS so it is a safe pdf link( https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv15.pdf).

 

The numbers show a more hard number of reported rape/sexual assault numbers:  "Rape/sexual assault(b) 284,350 (2014) 1.1      431,840 (2015) ‡  1.6 ‡"  The devil is in the details , and I did a lot of looking into the little notation marks, because that is a huge increase from 2014 to 2015. When you take into account the notations:  †Significant difference from comparison year at 95% confidence level. ‡Significant difference from comparison year at 90% confidence level, and then the fact the BJS adjusted their data collection in 2015... "(b) BJS has initiated projects examining collection methods for self-report data on rape and sexual assault. See NCVS measurement of rape and sexual assault in Methodology for more information."  That is a very important tool. NCVS is the National Crime Victimization Survey, and you can read all about it on page 3. In a nutshell, this survey is pushed out I think at least once a year, to try and get a handle on the numbers of violent crime, like rape and sexual assault, not reported to police. This isn't just someone pushing 1 for rape or 2 for burglary on the phone. Actual face-to-face interviews are conducted, multiple times. I think this is an important tool to have, and I wish they would make the methods used for data collection, and the actual numbers at the end of the year, more publicly known.

 

We have these highway signs all over my state that let us know how many traffic deaths so far for the year. Sometimes it even specifies alcohol related, motorcycle related, etc. It's a constant reminder every ten miles or so near the major cities of what the numbers are. It creates not just an awareness, but helps mentally focus drivers on the roads to use more caution. For me, I think the numbers on sexual assault and rape should be plastered regularly on television, within internet browsers, or somewhere we would be able to apply that reminder. Granted, BJS doesn't really cover harassment, but that is something we can still find a way to get out there.

 

Now, to answer if the number drop is due to awareness? Absolutely. I think there has been a sharp accounting for perpetrators thanks to social media. Determent is preferable, but I think what we lack is empowerment of victims. Too many times so many folks hear about a pastor or famous Hollywood director and say, "Well, yeah. We all knew about their behavior, but what do you do? Report it and get excommunicated or fired?" There are no safe guards for victims. I understand that we cannot just allow flippant accusations of crimes against others.  I agree the court of public opinion is damaging, and one never truly recovers once a reputation has been put in front of a national stage and found guilty based on a smirk captured in unrelated events. But the level of vitriol that accusers meet even from law enforcement and court officials is appalling.  Objectivity does not mean discouraging one from ever coming forward, or making a victim feel it is wrong to speak up to begin with. Asking a question, making a statement of concern, or revealing one has been hurt by another, should not immediately draw skepticism. What ever happened to acknowledging a problem? Acknowledgement is not confirmation of the actual events, but it sure as hell isn't off putting or intimidating. 

 

Acknowledging someone's experience allows for discussion, investigation, and conversation. Why does this person believe s/he has been abused? What events happened to lead to this conclusion? Who was present, how did this person perceive his/her role in the event? I mean, this is every day investigative practice. You can hug a person and acknowledge his/her experiences without convicting anybody until all the facts are there. How hard of a concept is this? And why is it not in practice anymore?

 

For me, all of this increased media attention to Weinstein, Weiner, and the assholes at Mythicon, really highlights the systemic problems in reporting sexual abuse/assault/harassment. It shows that, yes, while the numbers may be coming down, how many actually understand or accept that what they have experienced was unacceptable? Especially if you ever bring up these experiences, people immediately do not acknowledge your experience, but outright question the validity, motive, and level of harm you experienced without ever investigating the actual events you are sharing? 

 

I know that the numbers are higher than what we see. Not just from under reporting, but lack of comprehension of what sexual assault/abuse/harassment constitutes.  Many are taught to downplay these experiences from an early age. I didn't understand what my father did was wrong for many years. Not because I didn't know that it was wrong. I absolutely knew that sexual touching of my genitals, of my breasts, and penetration was wrong--- if a stranger did it. I had no idea that my dad could do those things to me. I did not have the concept that his doing it to me was the same thing as a stranger doing it.  And I think that is where we need so much more education in our society on this matter. 

 

How many men/women accept the fact that sexual commentary is normal, and you just have to let it slide off? How many people feel like an absolute negative nancy when they have to put their foot down in these situations? And why do they feel guilty for saying no to people making sexual commentary that they are not comfortable with?

 

Solution? 

It's education. We need more of it.

 

 

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16 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Bluegrass I am very sorry to hear of your abuse. It is a terrible blight that needs more attention.

 

There are some important questions that need answering on this topic (At least for me) in order to understand how we might best combat sexual abuse.

 

1) Is sexual abuse on the rise, or is it simply becoming more widely known and reported? If its on the rise then there has to be an explanation.

2) If it is rising is it possible that the increase is at least partly due to the increasing lowering value of relationships and the 'free love' attitudes? This in turn could devalue a person in the minds of other people.

 

Just some thoughts on the topic.

 

I also think definitions are in order, there are far too many women who consider catcalling sexual abuse or even regretting consensual sex as some kind of "withdrawing consent" rape. The types of "rape" that exist nowadays defy logic. 

 

I think these types of things take away from truly tragic instances of sexual abuse, which we should absolutely be attempting to stop, prevent, and help heal.

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The awareness factor should be huge. Although there is some backlash -- people claiming it isn't really happening (especially the harassment) or claiming that some things don't count, the fact is that society is beginning to talk about it out loud, and that by itself should cause people who are becoming adults to refrain from instigating it because instead of seeing it being accepted (and therefore emulating it) they'll see it as being unacceptable. Peer pressure is shifting away from participation in sexual harassment and toward shame of perpetrators.

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