A growing number of alleged incidences of sexual misconduct have been surfacing surrounding some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Allegations range from sexual misconduct to sexual assault to outright rape.
And it's disturbing, to say the least.
What is also concerning is most of the alleged assaults are not recent incidences. The accusers coming forward say they took place months, years… even decades ago.
So why now? Why are the victims (alleged) coming forward now in what appears to be a sweeping fashion? Could it be that they feel safe now that there are others speaking out and speaking up?
Here's the thing. This isn't just a "Hollywood" issue.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, two-thirds of rape and sexual assault cases are not reported to law enforcement (or anyone else) and according to the Association of American Universities, nearly one in four undergraduate women say they have been sexually assaulted on campus, though four out of five don't report it.
Keep in mind, those statistics do not include the males who have been sexually assaulted and who are even less likely to report it.
There are many reasons why sexual assault victims do not come forward, according to Laura Palumbo, Communications Director at NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), and the majority of them surround fear. Fear of retaliation, fear of rejection (not being believed), fear of being blamed, fear of humiliation, shame… the list goes on. These fears can become even more paralyzing if the perpetrator is a relative, an employer, a public figure, a person of authority e.g. law enforcement, or even a person who simply shares the same friends as the victim.
It takes a lot of courage for a victim of sexual assault to come forward, particularly when it comes to pointing the finger at public figures or persons of authority. There will always be people who don't believe the victim. There will always be people that try to discredit and humiliate the victim. There will always be people that blame the victim. There will even be people who claim the victim is mentally ill or accuse her/him of having monetary or spiteful motives. We've seen this just recently, soon after the Bill Cosby allegations began surfacing. And social media can be brutal.
But change is happening.
Movements such as #SpeakUp and #MeToo are trending across the internet creating more public accountability, forcing companies and other institutions to take action.
By continuing to educate the public, we can greatly impact the way we view and address sexual assault and by educating individuals on prevention and empowering victims to speak up, we can take the power and control away from those committing these egregious acts.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, there is help. Please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
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