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FEmale: You’re not alone

October 31, 2017

It’s been about two weeks since the “Me Too” hashtag movement flooded social media
and brought attention to a serious public health problem: sexual assault. The movement
showcased how sexually assaulted men and women processed each situation differently. For
some men and women, they suffer every day in silence and their pain goes unnoticed. As for
others, they live their lives with their assault being a thing of the past. Regardless of how one
processes their assault, it doesn’t make it any less significant.

According to RAINN, sexual assault is defined as “sexual contact or behavior that occurs
without explicit consent of the victim.” Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to, actions such
as undesired contact, attempted assault, forceful sexual acts and rape.

The “Me Too” movement was created to remove the stigmas surrounding sexual assault
while helping brave victims feel supported and united by their experiences. It was a reminder to
all victims that what happened to them was not their fault and they will never be alone.
On Twitter alone, 1.7 million men and women from 85 countries used the hashtag to
share their pain and strength after they experienced sexual assault (CNN).

Despite its recent popularity as a result of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault claims,
Tarana Burke, a social activist, created the “Me Too” movement back in 2006. She had recently
started Just Be Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps victims of sexual harassment and assault,
when she remembered a conversation she had with a 13-year- old girl.

Ten years prior to the creation of the nonprofit organization, a 13-year- old girl asked to
speak to Burke in private. The girl confessed that she had frequently been sexually assaulted by
her mother’s boyfriend. Burke felt paralyzed by the situation and was unable to reveal to the
victim that she, too, had been a victim of sexual assault.

“Me Too” grew stronger when over 80 actresses accused producer Harvey Weinstein on
multiple counts of sexual harassment. Shortly after, other famed producers and actors were
accused of sexual assault or harassment.

Sexual assault and harassment effects both males and females. One in five women and
one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted by the time that they graduate from college
(NSVRC). Time and time again, females are told not to wear revealing outfits because it might
provoke an attack. How can such a frequent and degrading comment also support the sexual
assaults that men encounter?

Whether the victim is male or female, he or she remains a victim. We must remain aware
of this at all times so that we can provide them all with what they need most at such a terrible
time: support. Social support is already a crucial element for healthy mental health in adults, so
when a victim encounters negative reactions to their experiences, this could lead to an unhealthy
mental state (Sigurvinsdottir and Ullman, 2016).

Victims of sexual assault experience a wide range of psychological consequences such as
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, but victims who receive negative
reactions to the exposure of their trauma frequently suffer from higher levels of anxiety,
depression, PTSD, alcoholism and substance abuse (Orchowski and Gidycz, 2015). Along with
their abused and violated bodies, their minds are vandalized and disrupted.

As for children who experienced sexual assault at a young age, they have a higher risk of
encountering sexual assault again once they’re older. The psychological distress, coping
strategies and sexual behavior may lead the child to falling victim again to a sexual assault
incident (Miron and Orcutt, 2014).

Enough is enough. It is time to educate both women and men about consent. It is time to
end the silence and start the conversation about the psychological burden sexual assault victims
carry every day of their lives.

To the sexual assault victims all over the world, you are not alone.

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