From the Editor: Breaking the silence of sexual assault

Through hashtags, dress codes, marches and mass media movements, women and men worldwide started anti-sexual harassment coalitions to ring in 2018. Accusations of sexual misconduct have skyrocketed, and this is just the beginning.

The action of silence protects sexual abusers internationally and, like a domino effect, victims are speaking up one after another. The silence has been broken among victims and supporters joining hands in saying, “You’re not alone.”

On Jan. 1, celebrities nationwide launched their online Time’s Up campaign through a letter of solidarity. The letter comforts “survivors of sexual harassment everywhere, to be heard, to be believed and to know that accountability is possible.” The purpose of the movement is to unify the voices of all victims of harassment and to put a stop to abuse in all fields of work. The campaign brings awareness to make sure consequences are enforced upon those who deserve it.

Up until the Harvey Weinstein scandal, few consequences for sexual abusers existed. Chief Justice John Roberts stated in early January that the judiciary is evaluating the sexual harassment complaints. He commented that, because of the escalated claims of sexual harassment in the workplace, the judiciary is starting 2018 by paying careful attention to investigating inappropriate behavior in the court system as well.

In recent news, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after 150 women came forward in court saying Nassar sexually abused them over the past two decades. Movements and campaigns are making a difference, prompting people to come forward to tell their stories and seek justice for all victims.

Many victims of sexual harassment and assault feel they are forced to stay quiet because of abusers posing threats toward them. In the sexual harassment case against comedian Louis C.K., two of the women who accused him of misconduct said they were forced to stay silent for a number of years because his manager pressured and threatened them. They felt that if they spoke up, they would have been punished.

According to the Harris Poll, a survey conducted through a marketing and analytics company, of 809 full-time employees who said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, 72 percent of the victims did not report the incident and 54 percent did not confront the person responsible. Those who chose to stay silent later reported that they did not report incidents of sexual assault because they did not want to be labeled a troublemaker or lose their jobs.

Movements like Time’s Up are working to break the silence through legal defense funds. Speaking up and bringing awareness to the issue brings people together in knowing that there can be a solution to the problem.

For the annual Golden Globe Awards, all those in attendance who support the Time’s Up Movement wore black in solidarity of the campaign. Because this campaign came out just seven days before the award show, it was a huge topic of conversation that night and many celebrities brought activists against sexual assault as dates to make an even larger impact.

Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement and made compelling statements about women and men standing together against sexual assault. One of the most powerful lines that had all in attendance on their feet was when Winfrey said with passion, “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.” She closed her speech by saying that as a new day dawns, it will be because of phenomenal men and women who are fighting hard to make sure no one ever has to say, “Me too” again.

The #MeToo movement has been taking social media by storm since October but has been a United States movement since 2006. Just recently, the #MeToo movement reached sexual harassment victims globally in Pakistan, Kenya and China. Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, 2.3 million tweets from 85 countries were posted using the hashtag #MeToo. This social media phenomenon has shown that sexual harassment exists over racial, cultural and socio-economic barriers.

Movements like Time’s Up and  #MeToo bring past and future victims of sexual assault hope for change. No one should have to stay silent any longer.

If you have experienced any type of sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the opinion editor, Hayley Fahey.

Printed in the 1/31/18 issue.

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