Well… to answer the question in the title, it’s not the most trending. In fact, it’s been around since the beginning of time. But in the recent weeks, decades of alleged sexual assaults is exposed on a daily basis on social media. From a movie mogul to a barrage of actors and even a former president, both women and men are standing up to their alleged sex offenders. These victims are seen as both brave and courageous for speaking out from decades of remaining quiet. But what about women and men who are not in the industry? Who is listening to them?
According to RAINN.org, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. And as of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape. However, 3% of American men, or 1 in every 33, have experienced the same trauma during their lifetime. And these are just those that have been reported. It is a fact that most assaults go unreported, because the victim is afraid of retaliation and other repercussions. But there is a percentage of those who isn’t even aware that they have been assaulted. So what is sexual assault?
Wikipedia describes it as a “sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or non-consensual sexual touching of a person.” However, sexual assault in a workplace doesn’t always mean touching of the body, there are more subtle ways a person could be assaulted and not even know. Here are some examples of sexual assault in the workplace:
- Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner; wolf whistling
- Making sexual comments towards someone’s appearance, clothing and/or body parts
- Making inappropriate sexual gestures
- Displaying inappropriate sexual images in the workplace
- Sending sexually suggestive letters, notes and emails in the workplace
- Asking questions about someone’s sexual history and orientation
We may have became so immune to such acts, that we fail to realize that it is against our permission for others to act this way towards us. Those in the entertainment industry is no different, it has become a part of the norm. Some people may even consider certain acts as a promissory note, a promise to a part of the elite. Although the allegations towards Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, and countless others are all alleged and they are innocent until proven guilty, the nature of these said acts are still a reality. According to recent reports, 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-34 has been sexually assaulted at work, 81% have been assaulted verbally (jokes, name-calling), men are victims roughly 17%-20% of the time. Sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment being the top three forms of sexual harassment in the workplace.
In October amidst the sexual assaults in Hollywood coming to the light, a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram open the doors for many victims to tell their encounters of abuse. “MeToo” was started by Actress and Activist Alyssa Milano after the allegations against Weinstein started to come out in large quantity. Entertainers such as Lady Gaga, Rosario Dawson and Javier Muñoz all shared their experiences on their social medias. “Me too. I don’t know if means anything coming from a gay man but it’s happened. Multiple times.”, Muñoz tweeted. So how does one report these incidents, how do you make your voice heard?
Speaking up is always the right thing (and first thing) to do. By letting the offender know that their behavior is inappropriate, in most cases, will cause them to stop out of concern of furthering workplace tension. If the offender continues with the assaults, keeping detailed records of the incidents, date and time, the name of the accused and the locations of the incidents, can help with an investigation to be conducted. Starting a paper trail can help you prove your case, if there is one to be found. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EECO) is recommended to be the next to last measure if an individual feels they are in an uncompromising position, along with filing a police report.
Sexual Assault is more common than it should be. Men and women are put into various situations with little to no help in sight. Speaking out is probably the most scary, yet liberating part of being abused, but you are taking back your power and dignity.