Harvey Weinstein. Bill O’Reilly. Bill Cosby.
Our newspapers and news feed these days are flooded with disgraced media personalities toppled after allegations of sexual violence have emerged along with the #MeToo hashtag.
It is easy to regard the #MeToo movement as something apart from what we at UD experience and outside of classical UD ideology. I’ve heard many people allege that sexual violence is “not really a problem” on UD’s campus, citing low numbers of reported sexual violence cases to support their statements.
#MeToo is often seen as belonging to Hollywood stars and corporate executives, with no room for our sleepy Catholic school in Irving.
Other people I’ve spoken with believe that UD students, often growing up in more traditional Christian and conservative households, are uncomfortable with discussing the topic, while others think that #MeToo is a flawed movement that seeks revenge, rather than justice.
While #MeToo has been used to wrongfully accuse others and destroy reputations, it has also proved extraordinarily effective with respect to its intended goals.
It is likely that Weinstein would still be producing films and sexually assaulting women if not for those courageous individuals who revealed the truth using the #MeToo hashtag.
#MeToo is more than a movement. It is a worldwide conversation. It is a societal self-examination. The official “me too” movement was founded in 2006 to assist the unwilling recipient of sexual harassment with the healing process, especially through advocacy and helping survivors find local crisis centers.
#MeToo and other awareness campaigns transfer the power from the hands of the abusers into those of the survivors. The nature of sexual violence isolates a person, inciting paralyzing emotions such as shame, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fear, among others.
#MeToo creates a community of support in which people receiving sexual harassment are empowered to break their silence and step away from their shame. It breaks the cycle of isolation and reminds the survivors that they are not alone.
In last week’s news article detailing the staff changes to the Title IX office, one anonymous student discussed avoiding speaking up about a sexually abusive relationship because the student was unsure what reporting the incident would achieve.
This in itself is not shocking; four out of five college-age victims do not report sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN).
What should be jarring, however, is that nearly one in four female college undergraduates — 23.1 percent — “experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation,” RAINN’s research states. Of male undergraduates, 5.4 percent experience sexual violence, while males aged 18-24 who attend university are 78 percent more likely to experience sexual violence than the same age group who does not attend college.
This issue is not about Hollywood or corporate America. It is not about liberal or conservative. It is not a problem that only “big schools” have.
This problem is here and now.
To those who allege that UD doesn’t have a problem with sexual violence: I want you to tell that to the student who spoke in last week’s article. I want you to tell that to the countless stories I’ve heard, like the student who had someone force themself upon them at a party but refused to report the incident.
Citing official figures about the low numbers of sexual violence is ineffective if four out of five students don’t report in the first place. One in four girls is sexually assaulted in college. As I sit in the Cap Bar writing this piece, that would be more than two girls just right here.
I heard people speak of this issue disparagingly as a problem of modern sexual culture. I have even heard people say that sexual violence is the fault of the non-consenting participant.
Others have told me vaguely that they want to “uphold the dignity of the human person,” but fail to outline how they plan to achieve their goal.
Does our sexual culture need to be changed? Yes. But sexual violence is not something you can “pray away” or ignore. The situation will be changed only when we choose to be transparent and engage in self-reflection as a culture.