Don’t blame survivors, make changes

“Me Too,” has been trending on social media platforms for a little over a week now, as many women and men have come forward and shared their stories of sexual violence. While the #MeToo trends can be comforting for some and can bring survivors together by saying ‘Hey, we’ve been there too,” social media stigmatizes everything and that this whole trend has been blown up.

Some people on the Internet can be cruel, and by writing #MeToo online, it’s possible that these victims have to relive their trauma or they can be labeled as attention seekers or even be forced to compare their story with others and then feel like their story isn’t “bad enough.” Not all sexual violence survivors want to be reminded of their assault or harassment when they go on their social media accounts and, quite frankly, no sexual violence  survivor owes you or the world their story.

Photo illustration by Grace Pecci/ OPinions Editor

Photo illustration by Grace Pecci/ OPinions Editor

When social media flooded with people posting #MeToo, we were taken aback. When it comes down to being a victim, victims do what feels the best for him or her- if they want to share their stories, they should, but if they don’t want to, then that’s okay too.

Our society needs to work on how we address sexual assault and harassment cases and our responses when we learn of someone’s traumatic experience. There really is no right way to respond when you learn that someone has become a sexual violence survivor- it’s just an awful thing to hear, which is why the best ways to respond can be to listen and ask the person, “What do you need?”

Society needs to stop blaming the survivors as well. There’s been too many cases where a victim will come forward and say that they’ve been assaulted or harassed and someone will ask them questions like, “Well what were you wearing?” or “Why did you get so drunk and allow yourself to be put into that situation?” rather than just listening and not making the victims feel as if they need to prove their case. By making victims feel like they have to explain themselves, it’s extremely damaging because not only do they have to relive their horrific experience, they also will feel unsupported.

This, however, does not take away from the stance that when a victim wants to come forward and testify, they need to be willing to give all details of their story, because there are still cases of people who are falsely accused of rape. The Enliven Project by Sarah Beaulieu showed shocking statistics of rape cases by using a diagram of human figures and grouped them by on rapists, those reported, those who faced trial and those who were actually jailed. Beaulieu said the point of the diagram was to show to those who worry about false accusations of rape how small the statistic is. From the diagram and statistic she found, only 2-8 percent of people were falsely accused. The statistic came from the National District Attorney’s Association website publication titled, “False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute NonStranger Sexual Assault.”

Some people are falsely accused of rape, assault and harassment, while others may be falsely deemed innocent, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this goes on everywhere. This has become such a common issue that schools from elementary to higher education need to see if we can make the change there. We need to educate children from a young age about sexual assault and harassment, teaching them to keep their hands to themselves and teaching them to understand that no one owes you their body or attention, period. We need to continue that education through high school and into college and there also needs to be a focus on what to say when you learn about someone experiencing sexual violence.

Luckily at Keene State College, we have various programs that promote speaking out against sexual violence. The production No Zebras, No Excuses, for example, is a program that focuses on bystanders who stand by during bad situations, such as assault, and it’s aimed to teach college students not to be that bystander. This is shown during first year orientation.

KSC also has a policy on campus where Residential Assistant’s (RA’s) are mandated to report sexual assault cases if their residents tell them or if they overhear it. Cases are reported to Title IX Coordinator Jeffrey Maher, who then works with the victim and asks what they want to do about it, unless it is a concern for other people’s safety.

Our institution does its best when handling cases, but the problem of sexual violence still exists and the education surrounding these issues needs to be stronger. The #MeToo campaign only brushed along the surface of the issue, and there is still much more that needs to be done.

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