An Overdue Conversation

A conversation on sexual assault and harassment is needed in high schools.

The issue of sexual assault is not new: it has lingered throughout history with the exploitation of millions of men and women. When the Harvey Weinstein allegations came forward, we knew this topic was not only newsworthy but also needed to be talked about within our own community. While searching for sources, we found more victims than expected who were willing to share their stories. Due to the way sexual assault has typically been viewed in the past, some of our sources chose to remain anonymous for their own safety.

Historically, when a victim chooses to come forward, they are often blamed, ridiculed or labeled as liars. Many of the men and women who have accused those in the film industry of assault risked losing their credibility and future within the industry because the abuser is often in a position of power. As a publication, we want to give people the platform to share their stories and hope it will change the way sexual assault is treated.

Sexual assault is a gendered and racial issue that has developed throughout American history. It was not unusual for female slaves to be raped by their owners. If a pregnancy resulted, their owners often decided their fates, abortion or bearing a child into slavery. In the 1800s, J. Marion Sims–now considered the father of modern gynecology–performed dangerous reproductive surgeries on his female slaves without anesthetics because he believed black women could not feel pain. This inhumane research was then used to provide reproductive health care for white women.

Though #MeToo was publicized by Alyssa Milano, a white woman, the movement originated more than a decade prior to Milano’s tweet. In 1996, Tarana Burke was working as a youth director when a young girl who had been sexually assaulted approached her asking for help. Burke described her feelings when talking with the girl in an interview with the New York Times.

I didn’t have a response or a way to help her at that moment, and I couldn’t even say ‘me too,’” Burke said.

Ten years later, Burke created Just Be Inc., a non-profit organization that provides services to victims of sexual harassment. As a black woman, she wanted to help other young women of color who were victims of sexual harassment, so she started her own movement called “Me Too” to let victims know that they are not alone.

Sexual assault is not limited to one group, it happens to all races, sexualities, people with disabilities, men, women and many others. The Faith Trust Institute reported that sexual violence is at times used to harass or terrorize persons or groups who experience racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

There is never an excuse for sexual assault, harassment or violence. Perpetrators may think that it’s acceptable because they have cultivated power from wealth, status, ego or subtle encouragement from societal norms like that of “boys will be boys,” but this is indefensible. Sexual assault must not be tolerated.