The sexualization of women and youth in the United States and other parts of the world is making a bigger impact than we realize. In today’s present generation women and children are still oversexualized, but have we grown to accept this as the norm or are we all starting to realize the negative impacts on our culture and deciding together it’s time to make a change?
The History of Sexual Assaults in America
Women have long been objectified sexually in society – magazines, music videos, movies, shows, and many more outlets depict women as sexual objects more often than as strong or powerful. Throughout history the media has played a large role in portraying women as unrealistically sexual, and the old excuse is, “SEX SELLS”. Not only is this disrespectful and stale, but it widens a gender gap that should have been closed years ago. There is far more evidence now that sex does not sell more than other advertising tactics. So why do so many people still think this? It may be because a “social norm” is harder to unthink than we can even know.
Rape and oppression are a long part of America’s history, from the 1800’s when white landowners often raped enslaved African American women, to present day cases such as Brock Turner, where actual proof and witnesses of a horrific scene amounted to a slap on the wrist. He is hard for anyone to understand how a man convicted of sexual assault was given just six months behind bars and only actually served three of those six. Consciousness Raising groups have popped up as an outlet for victimized women to share their stories. Today we have established National Sexual Violence Resource Centers for women all over and even a month (April) out of each year to acknowledge this violent problem and bring awareness to victims and prevention.
What Women Don’t Say
Often, women are afraid to come forward and admit to being a victim of sexual assault or violence for the fear of being retaliated against, rejected by society or not taken seriously. Women assume that people will believe the aggressor. Another problem women see with coming forward is the pattern of men not taking responsibility for their actions, instead often saying women provoke them by wearing promiscuous clothing or being “too friendly.” Women should be able to live in a world where they can have friendly conversations with men without fear that they may be sending the wrong signal, or an open invite to sexual advancements. In addition to this, women should live in a world where they will be heard, no matter the topic.
Stigmas with the Process
Going back to the media, think of the times women have claimed rape against professional athletes, music producers, TV production hosts, and so on. It seems the more powerful/wealthy/well known a man is, the less he is affected by sexual claims against him. The fight a victim has to face in order to go after her attacker is ugly and harrowing, especially since she has to relive the attack in testimony and often face her attacker in court. The ugly truth is also that often; the process of seeking justice further victimizes a victim.
Must Talk and Tell the Police
You can thank the women who have come forward about their situation for the growth of these rape centers and support groups. Sexual assault is not okay. There are people and organizations that want to help. They know how scary, misleading, or intimidating it can be to tell the police about your experience but at the very least they can provide support and direction as well as spread awareness. No matter how alone you feel, no one should go through this experience alone. There are people who truly want to help.
Emergence of Rape Centers
Rape Crisis Centers are community-based organizations that provide a number of helpful services for victims of sexual assault. RISE is an amazing group that was formed in 2013 to serve victims of both domestic violence and sexual assault. Groups like these have been formed in most communities and can be found almost anywhere near you. Find your local Rape Crisis Center and start talking.
Just encourage sharing (Stories/crimes/victimization) of all kinds and join the force of standing together. What can America do as a whole to squash the stigma about rape and what can you do if you or your friend has been a victim of rape, sexual assault or violence?
Stay tuned for part II.