Sexual Assault Awareness April- #MeToo and #TimesUp movements can be powerful for all women alike

By Skyler Kellers
May 9, 2022

Graphic for sexual assault awareness month
Sexual Assault Awareness month graphic from ERF.org

Sexual assault – it’s scary and it’s real, especially in college.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To know what to be aware of, one must first have to understand the topic at hand. According to Merriam Webster, sexual assault is defined as “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.”

The key words in that definition are consent and trust.

Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault; it does not matter your race, age or even your gender. We often think of an assailant as a stranger, but it can be a friend, family member or someone you know.

Sexual assault victims may experience mental effects, such as anxiety. They may also have difficulty concentrating. They may have feelings of depression, anger or shame. It can severely affect their ability to trust people in their relationships.

Additionally, survivors of rape and/or harassment, sometimes feel like they lost their sexuality and can never have a healthy romantic relationship.

Many celebrities have been vocal in raising awareness. The hashtag #MeToo is now a global movement that was started by actress Alyssa Milano. Oprah Winfrey supports #TimesUp, which is a powerful statement to expose the toxicity in the workspace and day-to-day life of men mistreating women.

Jahmeelah Ries, senior digital communications and social media major, said, “I feel that all it does is promote awareness versus fixing the issue which is that there are not enough legal consequences done to stop people who commit sexual assault. It is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human rights issue. I feel that our culture thinks sexual assault has to be a brutal event when many times sexual assault is an umbrella term – trying to persuade someone to have sex with you by threatening them is coercion. Touching someone without permission is not asking for consent. There are so many nuances when it comes to sexual assault that we don’t talk about that our culture has made acceptable.”

Many times, this issue is not addressed and not brought to authorities’ attention.

Ries said, “I think the issue is swept under the rug at times due to the fact that many schools want to be seen as ‘safe’ for students. No school wants to have the title of being a school that allows sexual assault, so many times they keep these issues very hush hush. They care more about the reputation of the university rather than the safety of their student population.”

Singer, Kesha wrote a ballad about producer, Dr. Luke, and how she overcome the injustice of her sexual assault case being dismissed and Kesha fans have resonated with the ballad in their own way.

These movements help bring awareness to sexual assault. They help by sharing real stories that help people feel more empowered to recognize that certain actions are characteristic of someone committing an assault. If you have not given consent, it empowers people to say “stop!” or “no!” – whether it is a stranger or someone who is a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

For a group project in the communications department, students made a piece detailing a Cabrini student experience of sexual misconduct on a train. A key moment in the social justice piece was, “instead of teaching individuals to be safer, we should teach them not to rape.”

Educating people that consent has to be respected is equally important when educating on awareness.

Sara Hanley, writing major, said, “We’re so focused on boys will be boys that no one wants to teach them to control themselves and some girls think there will be no consequences because all guys want is sexual stuff.”

The photo has captions like, “Your voice has power. Believe survivors, etc. Photo from cerrocoso.edu.

Hanley said, “Not enough is known because when I had my experience, I thought it was fine and I was just overreacting it wasn’t till I talked to my friends about it that I knew it wasn’t okay.”

To that point, any reaction is valid, and it is important to know that you are not overreacting because the experience is not okay.

Prevention is different from awareness. Everyone can play a role in preventing sexual assault. The biggest tool we have is a voice. Speak up when someone jokes about sexual assault. Making fun of the topic gives others the feeling that it is ok to do so – it is not.

Trusting instincts is good advice. If something does not feel right, then do anything possible to get away from the situation. Make up an excuse to leave. Call a friend with a code word to indicate help is needed. Be aware of surroundings and stay alert. Stay away from areas that are desolate.

Supporting someone who may be suffering from sexual assault can return control and power to the victimized. There are programs that can help. “It’s On Us” is a campaign to stop and prevent sexual assault, as well as being aware of what it is and how it’s not okay.

If you feel like you or someone is in a situation that is leading to assault the safest thing to do is report it. Find someone of authority like a security guard, an RA, Public Safety or call 911.

If someone is sexually assaulted on Cabrini’s campus, Cabrini cares and wants to get help to you. Cabrini supports the “It’s on Us” campaign and the university is anti-victim blaming and anti-sexual violence.

Click here to watch a multimedia narrative storytelling talking about sexual violence.

Click here for more information on how the Cabrini community handles sexual assault/violence on campus.

Skyler Kellers

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