Believe Survivors

How we can we protect those who have experienced sexual assault


Chances are high that if you turn on any major news network, a trending topic will be sexual assault. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have swept the entertainment and political worlds by storm. Survivors are finally getting the support they deserve, and society seems to be pulling the rug out from under these big name abusers.

Well-known names such as comedian Louis C.K., news anchor Matt Lauer, and, most recently, former CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves have been just a few people to receive repercussions for their actions. Thanks to these social media movements, more survivors are speaking out. These conversations are going straight from the 280 characters in a tweet to verbal discussions at the dining room table.

As history has shown, with every progressive movement, such as the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and the fight for same-sex marriage, there are those who want to silence the call for change. There are those that think survivors are overreacting.

I was shocked to hear a man in one of my own classes suggest men should start wearing body cams to “protect themselves.” Not from sexual assault, which “1 in 33 men have experienced in their lifetime,” according to RAINN, but from these false accusations that are just flying around.

I am angry and hurt that someone could see the stories from survivors — see how many survivors are talked about and treated — and their first thought is that women are being malicious and lying. Statistics from RAINN state that one out of every six American women are survivors of sexual assault. Are all these women lying?

In some ways, I get it. I am not deaf to the cases of false accusations by women, but it does not keep me from believing other women. There is a huge amount of hate and victim-blaming towards those who speak out; the risk is so great that it’s hard to assume the majority of survivors would lie. Some men assume women cannot tell the difference between a friendly gesture and an inappropriate advance, and it is demeaning.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, according to RAINN. That is a scary statistic. Even scarier? RAINN states only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. There is a huge issue here in accountability to those that choose to assault.

If you are someone who thinks that you need protection from “false accusations,” consider your actions. You can still compliment members of the opposite sex, but in a respectful manner. Compliment their looks instead of making inappropriate comments about their body. A simple“ you look nice today” is more than enough to get the point across.

Pay attention to the body language of a person. Often, you can read a person and see if you are making them uncomfortable. Ask for consent before you hug or enter someone’s personal space. Even in relationships, you are comfortable in, remember the other person has a right to reject a touch, and that’s okay. No one is guaranteed access to another person’s body, so please remember that a little respect goes a long way.