Conceptualizing Sexual Assault in the #MeToo Age

Conceptualizing Sexual Assault in the #MeToo Age

The exposition of Harvey Weinstein, mercifully charged with rape today, and like perverts, opened up a very important and long-overdue conversation about sexual assault in 2017. We learned a couple things from this conversation: 1.) sexual assault is highly normalized in the business setting and 2.) the frequency of sexual assault in the work place is a stark shame.

Thanks to movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, the prevalence of sexual assault amongst people like you and me was brought to light. Worldwide, men and women of all ages posted a simple ‘#MeToo” on their profiles, letting other victims of sexual assault know they were not alone. These posts filtered in by the thousands. Then, by the millions.  

Since last year, Weinstein and many other public-eye degenerates have been publicly shunned for their plethora of invasive actions, prompting many to report their experience(s) with sexual assault with the new knowledge they live in a society growlingly compassionate towards abused victims. But this spike in reports begs a few questions.

Is Consent Really That Difficult to Understand?

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) defines consent as an agreement between participants to engage in a sexual activity. Consent does not necessarily have to be verbal (though someone may resist one’s advances verbally with a ‘no’, ‘stop’, or repelling scream.) Nonverbal consent can be as simple using physical cues to let your partner know you’re comfortable with changing the degree of sexual activity.

RAINN stresses consent is about communication; consent must be clear and unambiguous. Consent should not be assumed. For example:

  • If a girl is wearing a very short, tight skirt, one should not assume she is dressed so because she is open to having sex.
  • If you see a person you previously slept with, do not assume they want to hook up with you again; their consent for the previous hook-up is not transferable to future hook-ups.
  • If someone is passive or silent in their attempts to resist, or are otherwise not responding actively to your advances, this does not quality as consent. 

These are only a few common scenarios where consent is most often incorrectly assumed. Below is a brief video which breaks down the many ways one can give or deny consent as plainly as possible.

Consent isn’t difficult to understand. In fact, it’s quite simple. But one must also respect another’s choice to either give or decline to give their consent. Therein lies the root of the issue.

Why Didn’t Anyone Speak Out Sooner?

The list of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims is a long one dating as far back as the late 1980s. For nearly 30 years did one victim remain silent about Weinstein raping her in her own home, saying she felt ‘embarrassed…sick…so sad’ after ‘giving up’ when he forced himself into her home and onto her body.

Such is the reality for many victims of sexual assault. Being sexually defiled can leave one feeling weak, pathetic, and ashamed. This type embarrassment is an all-consuming kind. For some, the emotional whiplash is debilitating enough to silence them for years. Other of Weinstein’s victims say they chose not to report the Hollywood producer for fear their careers would come to an end. Some say Weinstein threatened them directly with the promise they’d be making a ‘big mistake’ if they were to reject him. Others, knowing his status as a highly successful and respected, long-time movie tycoon, felt reports filled against him would not be taken seriously.

Being sexually defiled can leave one feeling weak, pathetic, and ashamed. This type embarrassment is an all-consuming kind. For some, the emotional whiplash is debilitating enough to silence them for years.

Outside of the workplace, many choose not to speak out for similar reasons. Some let the embarrassment they feel overrule the need to tell someone they’ve been assaulted. Some feel they have no one to speak out to; others fear they won’t be supported by their loved ones.

How Prevalent are Sexually Violent Crimes on my Campus?

On the college campus, over a fifth of all undergraduate females and 5.3% of male undergraduate students will experience a type of sexual violence in their four years of school. Of these incidents, 2 of 3 will go unreported. This issue is the basis for the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground (currently available to stream on Netflix) which provides viewers with a website to check the number of reported sexually violent crimes on their own college campus.

Before the fall semester of my freshman year began, I sat down to watch The Hunting Ground. When I found my school-of-choice’s reports of rape on campus in years prior, it prompted me to meet with the director of campus security to discuss their protocol when responding to a call/report of sexual assault. Knowing my school’s campus police take these reports and, therefore, Title IX seriously, helped me feel safe and comfortable my first year (this year, and continuing years) away from home.

Even if just to humor your curiosity, I highly suggest clicking the link provided and learning more about the crime rates on your college campus. It doesn’t hurt to stay informed.

The list of Hollywood’s sexual predators will continue to grow this year as victims continue to shed light on the dark corner that is the normalcy of sexual misconduct. As these victims make their stories known, it is important to remember and praise the resiliency of all victims of sexual violence…especially those who’ve yet to speak up. (If this is you: RAINN’s 24-hour hotline number is 1-800-656-4673. Good luck, from one #MeToo to another.)


About Megan Lear

I am a current creative writing and journalism double-major from New Orleans with a healthy passion for both. My favorite style to write is narrative fiction, though a few of my poems have been published in collegiate literary journals and an anthology titled Alabama’s Best Emerging Poets. My other interests include justice for sexual assault victims, the de-stigmatization of mental illnesses and my cat, Edgar Allen Puss. Get to know me through the links below.