Sexual Assault

Photo Credit: Luzan’s Knots

It is time to address the issue.
Statistics are important. They help describe the nature and prevalence of phenomena which help direct policy as well as further research. Sadly, though, nitpicking around statistics can often become more of a distraction than a call to action. In the cases of sexual assault I have found that many men simply don’t believe the number. This gut disbelief is then confounded with semantic and epistemological arguments – arguments relating to what is asked and how it is asked. In spite of the fact that arguments against current sexuals assult statistics only effect moderate sways in the final numbers, and at times are themselves a little ridiculous, they are made. For example, making the argument that one may be confused as to if they were sexually assaulted because of how the question was asked is arguably too much, even dismissive. Nonetheless, common statistics like 1/5 women sexuality assulted on collage campuses don’t quite have the impact we might expect because of these inquiries.

In academia it is welcome to challenge any statistic and important part of maintaining academic rigor. This is why I propose in conversations of sexual assault we should use a better statistic. One that gets right to the heart of the matter, and is not bounced around with arguments of semantic and epistemological arguments – a statistic that holds insurmountable validity in it of itself.

If you ask any women in the world if she personally knows someone who has been sexually assaulted they will say “yes.” That is reason enough to take drastic action on levels of policy, education, and cultural reform.

Talking with men and women about this subject for the last 12 years has shown me one major flaw in common arguments and statistics. Men are not aware of how prevalent sexual assault is because people don’t tell them. When men are sexually assaulted they rarely tell other men; nonetheless, anyone for that matter. Women are also not likely to outwardly share this information and especially not with men. Even more so with men who don’t invite a warm and compassionate space for them to share their experiences and feelings. So many men are blind to how common sexual assault really is. They hear 1 in 5 but they “don’t know” anyone personally who has been affected. The number is so much greater than their personal experience they dismiss it.

“If you ask any women in the world if they personally know someone who has been sexually assaulted they will say ‘yes.'”

After the case of Brock Turner, I was talking with men who were arguing the numbers and statistics. In the conversation I asked myself “If I was sexually assaulted how comfortable would I feel sharing that information with these men.” The answer was clear. They were so dumfounded by these statistics because no one has let them in on the very personal nature of this epidemic of violence that has touched every corner of the world for generations. It made me think of a new question: “Don’t believe me? Ask any woman in the world ‘Do you personally know someone who has been sexually assaulted.’ Under no circumstances ask if they have been assaulted themselves. They will share this with you if they feel safe to. If they have been and do not share it with you openly then it is not your business to know.”

So lets think about what this new standard means. Any time everyone in the world personally knows someone who has been negatively effected by a phenomenon then we can assume it is a real issue that deserves real attention. If everyone knows someone who has been in an airplane crash, then we need to seriously address airplane safety. Think about how much we have done to address gun violence, gangs, and terrorism, even though none of these issues have become prevalent enough to say that everyone personally knows someone who has directly been effected by these issues. The sad fact is that everyone knows someone who has been sexually assaulted whether it has been shared with them or not, and that is too much. Something needs to be done. Yes, it does warrant large structural changes to eduction, institutions, laws, and media to address the problem.