Taking our bodies back

Touching on sexual harassment and assault


Illustration by Victoria Van

Story by Tiger Times Staff

The first word is a snowflake. Seemingly harmless at first, and not cold enough for anyone to say anything about. But when one snowflake falls, hundreds are bound to follow, and soon the cold words pile up into a frozen avalanche, silencing the ones inside. Sexual assault can, and often does, start with something as simple as a word, something innocent, and snowballs into something that permanently affects the victim.

We need to change our attitude toward sexual assault and start treating it as the serious problem it is. We are the ones who can make change and repercussions for the criminals and save the victims from being left in the cold alone. It is disturbing the ways that sexual inequality is promoted and normalized:

Boys will be boys.

It’s just locker talk.

Learn how to take a joke. 

But boys grow up. Talk escalates. And every joke has a root in truth. The perception that words aren’t equal to actions is false, because the two are inseparable. A person’s words predict their actions, and words that degrade women are predictive of sexist behavior and are normally rooted in insecurity. Of course, times used to be different. Women were expected to be submissive and tolerant of any abuse, verbal or physical, that they endured. But times are different, and it is time for tolerance of this behavior to change. 

The perception that words aren’t equal to actions is false, because the two are inseparable.”

Sexual harassment and assault allegations have littered the news lately, but the difference between the two can seem blurred. Simply put, harassment is unwelcome advances or requests, and assault is forced, threatened, or otherwise nonconsensual sexual contact. While sexual assault is objectively more serious, it’s important not to dismiss anyone’s experiences by comparing them to someone else’s. Every victim deserves a voice.

Since the momentum of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp seem so recent, many people feel that this issue is being overblown; many of the sexual assault allegations are from almost 20 years ago, which influences some to believe that people are only shedding light on their experiences for attention. Allegations of something as serious as assault should at least be considered. Just because one claim might be false, all claims shouldn’t be dismissed. Sexual assault is and always will be relevant. 

Many movie stars and business moguls have newly tarnished reputations as a result of the powerful sexual assault movements that are sweeping across the world. The fans of franchises with actors and directors who have been exposed as abusers may feel upset by the negative connotations attached to their favorite movies, but victims experience a much worse reality, and it’s unfair to discredit their claims because of a fondness for an actor. The only way to stop the success of abusers is to completely stop praising them or patroning their work. It needs to be made known that sexual assault is a grave offense that’s exteremely difficult to be redeemed from. Nowhere should it be acceptable for sexual abuse to remain normalized, a rung neccessary to climb in the corporate world.

Sexual assault seems like it permeates every pore of life today. It can be disheartening to see the numerous allegations that emerge each day, but believe it or not, there is a bright side. All of these accusations that come up are proof that society has changed for the better, and women are feeling more and more empowered to speak out. As far as keeping perpetrators of assault from power, it’s important to stop them before they can start. Shut down degrading jokes, talk about your experiences, and make sure people know that what they’re saying hurts you. 

The ever-growing threat of sexual assault is most common at college campuses. Many colleges have enforced new policies that require applicants to take a test that screens their knowledge on sexual assault, what it means, and how to prevent it. These assessments are aimed to reduce statistics of harassment and assaults by making students more aware of their actions and the consequences they might have to face as a result. 

A snowflake can become an avalanche in the blink of an eye. But, if the snowflakes melt before they can land, they never have the chance to become anything more. ”

The avalanche of silence brought upon the victims of sexual assault can be overcome, but not alone. To be rescued from a situation so dire requires a strong support system based on friends and family who love and understand the victim. 

 If you’ve ever been a victim, the first step is to reach out (you don’t have to if you’re not ready) and find someone that you trust enough to share your story. If you haven’t experienced anything like this, you have a responsibility: Help those who have. Be understanding, not skeptical, and respect peoples’ boundaries. Educate yourself on what sexual abuse is (sexist jokes, physical conflict, verbal abuse) before they have the chance to become serious.

A snowflake can become an avalanche in the blink of an eye. But, if the snowflakes melt before they can land, they never have the chance to become anything more.