Sexual Assault Happens Here, and Everywhere

Rachel Hertzberg, Staff Writer

From far-off New Delhi to the recent events in Steubenville, Ohio, where members of the high school football team gang-raped a girl at a party and then spread photos and video of the assault on the internet, it’s hard to understand how our supposedly modern societies and the Blake community can foster such terrible sexual violence.

The main reason for this continual violence is the lack of education and understanding around the issues of consent and coercion. Instead of focusing on the definitions behind the terms around sexual assault, one can only focus on the cause and effects of sexual violence, such as shame, denial, and ridicule.

In order for these cause and effects to be obliterated, breaking down the social stigmas surrounding sexual violence must is key. Posters may line the walls of Blake explaining that nothing provokes sexual violence, such as a provocative outfit, but for everyone to be truly aware of the meanings behind sexual violence, terms is the main priority.

First, it is important to understand the distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault. According to the Blake Handbook, “coerced sexual relations,” and “physical assault, including rape,” are subsets of sexual harassment. It continues to list threats, suggestive comments, and verbal harassment, as other forms of sexual harassment.

Second, it’s crucial to understand the concept of enthusiastic consent. Enthusiastic consent means that in order for any sexual activity to be truly consensual, both people must verbalize their willingness to participate. All too often, media depicts sex as occurring out of unspoken mutual desire, rather than communication and consent. By this definition, sexual activity with anyone who is physically incapable of consenting, due to being under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or being asleep, is considered rape.

Third, we as a society need to become aware of victimization when talking about rape. For example, in the Steubenville case, the media, including CNN, portrayed empathy for the perpetrators, reiterating how their lives would be affected by their one to two year prison sentences.

They even hinted that the victim was at fault for becoming drunk in the first place.

Unfortunately, rapists often face very few consequences for their actions in schools, and in general society. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, at least 97% of rapists never spend one day in jail. This frightening statistic is due to the fear of speaking out against abusers, fear of being ostracized by one’s social group, and societal bias against victims.

Lastly, we need to understand that sexual violence is much more common than most people think. As Justice League member Alisha Litman-edhaZelle ’13 said while preparing for Blake’s May 2nd Take Back the Night Event, “People think [sexual assault] doesn’t happen here, or can’t happen to them. It seems really far away. It happens to women in big cities, in dark alleys, or at college parties. I don’t think people know it’s the person sitting next to you in class, or your friend.”