Every time I open my phone or turn on the news, there seems to be yet another new rape or sexual assault case often involving students, prominent Hollywood figures, CEOs, politicians, or famous athletes. Frankly, it disgusts me to think how sexual assault and sex-based discrimination has become a normal occurrence in society nowadays and how many individuals are misinformed about this issue or ignore the problem altogether.
This past year, I’ve followed dozens of sexual assault cases, and in each one, the accused blames the victim. In this, they perpetuate the stigma of being an open assault survivor. In fact, this “survivor’s stigma” has had such a significant impact that every year, 3 out of every 4 assault cases go unreported. By blaming the victims who are brave enough to come out and share their story with the world, we shame and silence other survivors who have suffered similar trauma. We ignore their painful experiences and we continue to allow others to hurt those around us. But we do this not out of malice but because blaming the victim is often the easiest way out. When we blame the victim, we write off this issue as a singular occurrence. As a result, we never confront the institutional sexism imbedded within our culture and we never acknowledge the dire need for social change. But if we curtail our inaction, there is hope for a better future.
While the breaking news about the latest rape or sexual assault case is often shocking, there are actually many steps and societal conditions that preface an assault case. These include derogatory messaging in music and advertising, inappropriate jokes, substance abuse, and a tendency to blame victims of assault. This perpetuating rape culture acts as a gateway allowing small grievances and often excusing larger cases and circumstances of sexual discrimination and aggression. I feel especially interested in addressing these issues since the reality of the situation is that many sexual offenders and predators have historically been men. But in order to stop rape culture, society must recognize its existence. And by society, I mean both women and men.
The prevalence of sexual assault is not a women’s issue. It is not the survivor’s fault. It is my problem, and it is your problem. And while fixing this will not be easy, change is necessary. So let’s inspire change together by recognizing our societal faults and working to address them. Only through this may we ensure a brighter future for all.
Ezugo Ononye is a member of the service learning group GEM, Girls Empowerment Movement, and the founder of BARC (Boys Against Rape Culture).
Pictured on the Left: Ononye (far left) conducting a BARC meeting
Pictured Above: Ononye (far right) attending a GEM event