Sexual Violence in America
by Katelyn Twist
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in every three women and one in every six men are victims of contact sexual assault, at some point in their lifetime. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am shocked by this. As a girl growing up in America, the threat of sexual violence has loomed over me for my entire life. Even today, it is ingrained into my head, as something that’s just bound to happen. As a teenager, seeing organizations that recognize and fight for victims of sexual assault in the media is not only reassuring, but inspiring.
This past Summer, I took a job babysitting for one of my mother’s friends. On my second day, her daughters (both elementary schoolers) suggested that we walk to a coffee shop near their house. About ten minutes into our walk, we turned the corner to see four men smoking and blocking our path. We were right next to an intersection, so we decided to go out of our way and cross the street to avoid any confrontation with the men. As we were walking on the other side of the road, we heard them yelling and whistling at us. Still staring straight ahead, I warned the girls not to yell back in defense or even look at the harassers.
Looking back on this, I am angry about many things. I’m angry that I would rather go out of my way and cross a busy intersection than risk being near a group of men. I’m angry that they thought that it was acceptable to catcall literal children. I was still a child myself, I’m angry that we couldn’t have defended ourselves, if we tried. I was paranoid for the rest of our walk, thinking, “What if they follow us?” At fourteen years old, I was afraid for the innocence of two children. It’s common experiences like this that force so many children to lose their innocence and grow up faster. The scariest part of this for me was realizing how much farther sexual assault goes than this. Judging by how scared I was then, I cannot even begin to imagine being in a contact sexual harassment situation. I agree with many men and women today who say: enough is enough. No one deserves to feel like an object that’s available for use by anyone who wants it.
Rightfully so, this is an issue that has been largely addressed in the media lately. This is, in part, thanks to the Me Too movement. Founded by Tarana Burke in 2006, it was originally created “to help victims of sexual violence, particularly young women of color from low wealth communities, find pathways to healing.” Me Too has grown into something much larger since the fall of 2017, when a single tweet swept the nation. Almost exactly two years ago, Alyssa Milano tweeted, “if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write “me too” as a reply to this tweet.” Within twenty four hours, about 30,000 people replied. Since then, men and women alike have come out and told their stories, unphased by the repercussions that threatened them before.
Before movements such as Me Too, Times Up, Ask Her More, and many others, speaking up was almost unheard of. It is 2018 and victims will not be hushed or degraded for telling their stories. Powerful men and women no longer have the authority to silence this call to action. This is the pathway to the America that men and women everywhere expect and deserve.