One out of six

The current state of women in America


Illustration by Margaret Debenport

Story by Margaret Debenport, culture editor

To begin reading this article, take a look around you. Take a look at your friends, and at the people who aren’t really your friends in the room. Close your eyes and go to your favorite place – look at who surrounds you there. Think about all the women in your life – think about your mother, your sister, your aunt, your cousin, your niece, your best friend, your girlfriend.

Now focus on this statistic: According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one out of every six American women have been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

As a young woman in America, I will admit that I am scared. I am scared to go anywhere by myself – anywhere where it is just me. A 16 year old girl can yell and scream, but probably not fight off someone with plans to hurt me. I am scared for my friends, I am scared for my sisters, and the fear I carry is not irrational or uncommon.

This fear is why countless girls I know carry pepper spray, because some of them have had to use it to escape dangerous situations. This fear is why my friends and I always walk each other to our cars at night, because being alone is the most common time when women are attacked. This fear is the reason why women, victims of sexual assault or not, stood with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in protest to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. The fear surrounds us constantly and for one in every six of us, one day that fear manifests into an event that has significant negative effects on the victim.

You may ask yourself what the “big deal” is about Dr. Ford not being taken seriously. The big deal is that once again, women were shown not to matter when their accusations challenge a “good man’s” future. In cases such as the People V. Brock Turner, even with evidence and witnesses proving his fault, Turner was only given six months for sexual assault because any more would have had a “severe impact” on him. In this case, like many others, it is not the “severe impact” the sexual assault has on the victim that is questioned, it is the impact it has in the perpetrator’s life that is held to question.

In most criminal cases, the supposed guilty party is not pitied for what they’ve accomplished or are capable of accomplishing. “Good man” or “bad man,” if a law is broken, punishment is given. However, in nation wide news women are seen time and time again to not be believed, to be made fun of for stepping forward against men. Reporting sexual assault can be traumatic for the victim, and with the added fear of mockery and shame from the public, it’s easy to see why a victim would not want to step forward.

One out of every six women in the United States have faced something as traumatizing as Dr. Ford has.

If we want to keep women safe in America, we need to be taken seriously by men, especially those who hold political power.”

— Margaret Debenport

If you’ve read this far through the article, approximately by the time you reach the end of this sentence, 98 seconds will have elapsed, and another person in America has been sexually assaulted.

I have recently seen people express their concern for false accusations made against men for reasons of women “being mad at” a man or “wanting to ruin his career.” I do agree that if evidence is able to falsify a claim, that slander is a liable cause to sue and should be punishable. However, when it is already so clear that victims have such a small chance of being believed in the first place, why would they want to step forward just to be attacked by others? Sexual assault can cause daily trauma, so why would any victim wish to be further harassed by the media?

After all, no victim of sexual assault wants to be mocked by the President during one of his speeches. No victim wants to be made fun of by a United States senator for doing what she feels is her civic duty. This was the reality for Dr. Ford. What is this teaching our society? What is this teaching our young men and women?

The recent events should not teach our society, as President Trump has said, that it is a “very scary time for young men in America.” Remember when you were younger and your parent came through the house yelling because something was broken – if you know for a fact you did not break said thing, you were not afraid of the consequences. It is a scary time for men only if they have assaulted someone.

No man nor woman, if they know they are innocent, has anything to be afraid of in today’s culture – a culture that is, albeit slowly, learning to stand up to men who have abused their power. Men too can be victims of sexual assault, which is a rational fear to hold. The likeliness of a man being falsely accused of sexual misconduct is tiny compared to his chances of being sexually assaulted – 10% of attempted rape or rape victims are men.

However, I am not afraid only for the fact that one day someone I love or myself could become a statistic. I am afraid because so many of our leaders have recently shown that they value women so little they laugh at their suffering. I am afraid because leaders are teaching younger generations that it is okay to do the same. Who do we turn to when the government, which was created for the people, only respects and protects one kind of person?