Recently, it has been hard to avoid high-profile cases involving allegations of sexual assault and the various movements decrying these experiences. These issues are not new and remain relevant in current affairs, particularly in recent elections and changes in government administrations.
An especially high profile case occurred nearly three months ago in which multiple women came forward with allegations of previously experiencing sexual assault and harassment by Brett Kavanaugh. One of these women, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified at Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for his nomination to the United States Supreme Court. Dr. Ford’s testimony was heavily scrutinized in the news, radio, online, and even by President Trump via Twitter and press conferences.
Dr. Ford’s credibility and reasons for coming forward are still criticized by the media and in daily conversations. Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court on October 8th, 2018. During this ceremony, President Trump issued an apology to Kavanaugh and tried to relate to the new Justice by bringing up his own history of receiving allegations of sexual assault.
For people who have experienced sexual assault, watching the coverage of Dr. Ford’s testimony and hearing family and peer opinions on the matter can trigger distressing memories. Sexual assault is a violation of a person’s body. It is not an act that has no consequences for the victim.
Additionally, sexual assault has historically been discussed as it pertains to white, straight women who are framed as the victims, and straight men as the aggressors. Although this situation does occur, all individuals can be victims of sexual assault including members of the LGBTQ community, racial minorities, gender diverse individuals, and men.
Despite popular opinion, women can also be perpetrators of sexual assault. To the surprise of many, one in six men fall victim to sexual assault. When men do come forward, they are often mocked in the media and shamed for experiencing what the general public perceives as harmless actions by women. However, it is important to note that men who feel they are coerced into sex by their girlfriends or other women indicate that this is not a consensual act. Sexual assault can victimize anyone, be perpetrated by anyone and can occur in various types of situations and relationships.
There are many reasons why survivors often choose not to report sexual assault, but although formal methods of reporting can be beneficial in that perpetrators may be held accountable to assist in survivors’ recovery, the statistics are clear: many survivors do not report despite the potential benefits (RAINN, 2018).
Additionally, the media often suggests women randomly accuse men of sexual assault, but it is quite simple: if you haven’t committed sexual assault, you shouldn’t be scared. Period.
In sum, the consequences of sexual assault are still a pressing matter even after the media has moved on from recent allegations and into its next cycle of news. As long as people continue to experience sexual assault, it won’t stop being relevant. Victims of sexual assault deserve justice, but they also deserve compassion and the chance to be heard. We are committed to fighting against sexual assault and changing the culture that surrounds this issue. To all the survivors out there: we support you, and we believe your stories. If you or someone you know needs confidential mental health services, please reach out to any of the following resources:
-USD’s Graduate Psychology Student Organizations ALLY and Students of Color In Psychology (SCIP)