TW: rape and sexual assault
With the rise of the #MeToo movement, hundreds of women have spoken up about their experiences with sexual assault. Currently, Governor Cuomo is being investigated for these accusations against him. Bill Cosby, whose convictions were recently overturned, had around 60 women accuse him of sexual assault. A few years ago, women began sharing their sexual harassment experiences on social media, and since then, the concealed actions of hundreds of celebrities, politicians, and other powerful figures have come to light.
However, the #MeToo movement is not a recent issue. In fact, its prevalence extends beyond celebrity. Nationwide, 81% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, 1 in 5 women experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime; among them, 1 in 3 suffered it for the first time between the ages of 11-17. 51.1% of female rape victims reported rape by an intimate partner, and 40.8% by an acquaintance.
Public awareness has brought down powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose. Many men think this movement has gone too far, that women now have too much power over them, and that a fabricated story could ruin their reputations and end their careers. However, men are not the victims of this movement. While many men have lost their jobs or positions, even more have gotten away with it. Whether an accusation gets taken seriously or not doesn’t just depend on how powerful the accused is, but also on how powerful the accuser is.
The allegations that receive national attention are generally from women who have amassed some sort of authority or influence. Hence, it’s no surprise many survivors have yet to come forward because reliving a traumatic moment in their lives, as well as the amount of scrutiny they have to endure, is not always worth it. Additionally, our culture of victim-blaming asks women what they could have done differently to prevent it and forces them to be responsible for protecting themselves, rather than holding men accountable for their actions. The percentage of false accusations falls between 2% to 10%, and it’s probably because it’s not worth going through the entire investigation on the possibility that maybe the accused will face repercussions. This means statistically, you are better off believing the accuser.
There is a jarring difference between the way men and women are treated today. Just from recent headlines, Bill Cosby was released from prison despite multiple felony counts of assault. At the same time, Brittany Spears spent the past thirteen years living under a conservatorship, where all of her decision-making power, including her own bodily autonomy—for example, the choice to have children—was given to someone else.
Many men are now afraid that a woman could end their career or ruin their reputation on a whim. But if someone has been accused, there is an overwhelming probability that the accusation is true. Also, as Cosby’s case demonstrates, it’s possible to walk free after having sixty women speak out against you. It’s possible to be appointed to the Supreme Court. And it’s possible to become the President of the United States.
Having wealth or influence shouldn’t exempt a person from the consequences of their actions. Rather, there should be a higher standard held to those we place on a pedestal and those we entrust to make decisions that affect others. Giving more power to survivors who choose to speak up doesn’t suppress or victimize men, it merely evens out the playing field for a large chunk of the population that has had to consistently work harder to make themselves heard.
Cover Photo Source: ISSAT-DCAF