By Kelly Hughes.
After the eruption of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, women took to twitter to divulge incredibly raw, harrowing and personal accounts detailing their own experiences of sexual assault. Men’s violence against women, sexual assault, rape and gendered violence are amongst the world’s most distressing and underreported issues faced by women. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of sexual assaults in Australia reached a seven-year high last year at a record 23,052. However, only one third of women report their sexual assaults to police, meaning the figure collected by the ABS last year is likely to be three times higher. Another report released by the Crime Statistics Agency of Australia found in the years 2009 to 2010, over 3,500 rapes were reported to police in Victoria. Out of those 3,500 only 3% ended up in court convictions.
Justice, as well as recognition, of sexual assaults committed by men against women rarely make it through the court system due to a lack of evidence. Cases that seldom make it through, require the victim to testify against their perpetrator face to face in court. This means they are forced to be in the same room as the perpetrator, reliving their experiences of trauma. During this time, the victim is subject to a cross examination by the defense, who’s argument relies on them creating doubt around the victim’s testimony and shifting the assumption of guilt. Their life, along with their most intimate and private experiences will be exposed to a room full of complete strangers as well as the man who committed the attack against them. The defense will paint a picture that reinforces blame and humiliation onto the victim in order to say a fair trial was carried out. The emotional trauma experienced by the victim through a legal trial, compiled with the initial trauma from their assault discourages many from coming forward.
But tens of thousands of women across the globe, took to twitter in the last weeks to join in solace, and tweet their experience of #metoo highlighting their own stories of sexual harassment. The context and circumstances, though deeply upsetting, shed a light on the hideous underbelly of gendered violence against women.
Their stories formed a palpable imbalance between victim and perpetrator as the silence from the men who had committed these acts was deafening.
Unsurprisingly, a group of gender inequality and sexual assault deniers combusted in fury claiming their views, as “good men” were being sidelined and misrepresented.
Herein lies the problem of gendered entitlement. It peddles prejudice and dangerous misconceptions: “because it isn’t happening to me it mustn’t be real.”
A lot can be said about this philosophy, but inherently it boils down to privilege.
It’s easy to discard experiences or events that have no direct affect or correlation on our lives.
It’s easy to discount or discredit other peoples lived experiences because we haven’t lived them ourselves.
It’s much easier to disconnect and dehumanise events that make us feel uncomfortable and confronted by unpleasant truths.
Harvey Weinstein is no lone wolf. He’s a product of his environment. An environment that undermines and devalues women’s intrinsic potential and self-worth. Hollywood is a microcosm of our patriarchal society that perpetrates gendered violence and disrespect towards women. Sexual assault didn’t start in Hollywood and it won’t end there.
By giving fuel to the fiery climate of sexual assault and gendered violence in Hollywood, all bystanders needed to do was keep quiet. Abuse thrives in an environment where its existence is kept in the dark. The longer it goes unchallenged it musters and multiplies. Powerful men like Harvey Weinstein use threats such as job loss or exploitation to ooze fear from their victims and silence them into stagnation. Like termites, sexual offenders can be difficult to detect due to their cryptic demeanor and destructive force when left unopposed. The longer they’re left unseen the greater the damage they cause.
It only takes one voice to shine a light on misconduct before the perpetrators and bystanders surge from under the woodworks.
It takes only one person to speak out and confront the culture of gendered violence and discrimination against women. But, more importantly, it also takes one person not to commit that act. It takes one person to confront “locker room talk” and knock back “boys will be boys” sayings. It takes one person to challenge a cat caller and one person to call out disrespect and discrimination against women.
If you truly want to learn something from Harvey Weinstein, it’s don’t turn a blind eye on rampant, deeply ingrained, perpetual sexism and gendered violence. Sexism, rape culture, gendered violence; gender discrimination, sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence are all completely 100% avoidable. We could wake up tomorrow morning with the issue of gender inequality completely cured if people understood there was no reason for the existence of violence against women. Women die every single day because of violence against women. Something completely curable kills a vast majority of women across the world. According to a report by OurWacth a woman in Australia is killed once a week by a former or current partner.
If you want to save lives, speak up and speak out against violence against women. Don’t let a culture of gender inequality and sexism against women dictate our future.
Image Source: The New York Times.