A call worth hearing

Sexual+violence+leaves+victims+in+a+traumatized++and+often+lonely+state.+By+being+willing+to+listen+to+their+concerns+and+provide+support%2C+individuals+can+create+an+environment+where+everybody%E2%80%99s+views+are+taken+into+consideration.+

Photo via Azlan Dupree under Creative Commons license

Sexual violence leaves victims in a traumatized and often lonely state. By being willing to listen to their concerns and provide support, individuals can create an environment where everybody’s views are taken into consideration.

In light of recent sexual allegations against multiple male celebrities, numerous women have placed the topic of sexual harassment at the forefront of today’s discussions. From sharing their stories and giving authoritative figures enough evidence to penalize their abusers, these women have created a platform where victims of abuse feel secure enough to leave the shadows behind.

While holding sexual harassers responsible for their actions is necessary, it is also imperative to ask ourselves how we can assist the victims affected by such degrading behavior.”

— Features co-Editor Ximena Bejarano

It hasn’t always been uncomplicated for women to disclose the information they know, however. On a Facebook post, Canadian actress Ellen Page discussed her experience with Brett Ratner, an American film producer. She went into depth about her personal experiences with an unnamed director and posed a question worth exploring: “If I, a person with significant privilege, remain reluctant and at such risk simply by saying a person’s name, what are the options for those who do not have what I have?”

Page’s statement reveals the reality women are continuing to face in today’s society: having to remain silent in spite of injustice. Whether it be to avoid discreditation or considerable damage to their careers, female victims of sexual harassment have felt inclined to conceal their struggles in order to protect themselves from backlash.

As the number of influential men accused of sexual misconduct increases, it is innate for individuals to merely devise ways of punishing them. While holding sexual harassers responsible for their actions is necessary, it is also imperative to ask ourselves how we can assist the victims affected by such degrading behavior.

Acknowledging the prevalence of sexual violence in the U.S. is the first step toward meaningful change. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. RAINN additionally reports that out of 1,000 rapes, only six rapists are incarcerated.

It is also worth noting that the majority of sexual assaults remain hidden. RAINN’s findings reveal that only 34.4% of sexual assaults are reported to the police.

In times where sexual harassment has only become more widespread, it is crucial for its victims to have their voices heard. Listening to their concerns and genuinely taking their views into account makes a bigger difference than one can imagine.

For the majority of victims, being on the receiving end of sexual violence leaves a lasting impact. RAINN states that 94% of women who are raped undergo symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder two weeks following the rape.

Disregarding the personal struggles faced by victims of rape only heightens their feelings of alienation. Before committing suicide in February 2016, Megan Rondini, a former student at the University of Alabama, was forced to drop charges against her rapist after being cast as a criminal by police. On the other side of the globe, women in Aleppo, Syria, have ended their lives for the sake of avoiding rape.

The impact of sexual violence on women is universal.

Centuries ago, our female ancestors silently endured illness, arranged marriages, physical abuse, and an overall lack of autonomy — aspects of society that were deemed normal at the time. Hundreds of years later, women still face an epidemic leaving their views equally as censored.

As present day victims of sexual violence continue to inform the world of their experiences, they should be listened to with empathy and an admiration for their courage, for they have gained enough confidence to liberate themselves while shaping history for the better.