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OPINION: It’s time to speak up
Bringing sexual assault to light can help end the problem
Harvey Weinstein. Senator Al Franken, Charlie Rose. And now: Matt Lauer.
When will this disturbing string of sexual harassment end? And what can we do about it as a society?
One in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed in some form while at work, according to a 2015 article published by Huffington Post.
Despite this, just 29 percent of these women reported the issue and 71 percent did not, according to the article.
But reporting these incidences should not have to be the responsibility of the victims.
Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino, who had close ties to Weinstein, admitted in an interview with the New York Times that he regretted not speaking up about the numerous incidents in which Weinstein sexually harassed women. Tarantino was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “I knew enough to do more than I did.” He also admitted in the same interview that, “I knew he did a couple of these things.”
Herein lies the problem.
Tarantino knew about Weinstein sexually harassing multiple women, and did nothing about it. Sadly, this was not the only case in which there was a bystander who witnessed such actions but failed to stop them or make the actions known.
I am not a woman. I cannot speak to the difficulties these women, or any women who are victims of sexual harassment, face or have faced. But as a man, hearing about these cases disturbs me.
Growing up, we all have people we look up to, and in many cases, those people are celebrities – celebrities that we desire to emulate in hopes of being like that very person one day.
I am an aspiring journalist. Matt Lauer is one of the most successful, well-known TV journalists in the field. While my dreams lie in print journalism, I think it wouldn’t be too off track to say that Matt Lauer has reached the pinnacle of success in his career. If aspiring journalists were asked, I’m sure that, prior to the recent sexual misconduct allegations, many would say that Matt Lauer served as an inspiration to them.
But how do we feel when those who inspire us turn out to be those who disappoint and anger us because of their actions?
As a man, I’m not only disturbed; I’m afraid. I’m afraid that these instances of sexual harassment will continually be a problem in our society if they keep being swept under the rug. As a man, I’m afraid of the example we are setting for our future generations of men. I am by no means saying that every man is a sexual predator. However, the staggering number of male celebrities involved in sexual harassment scandals is disconcerting. Are these really the people our young men should have to look up to as role models?
We need people that, in situations such as the one Tarantino faced, to speak up. It is not okay for us to simply say that, ‘It’s not happening to me, so it doesn’t matter.’ The sad reality is that if sexual harassment is tolerated, it will be seen by many as acceptable. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And what history can we learn from in this case unless these instances are brought to light? How will our future generations not engage in this same behavior if the behavior is brushed off as a non-issue?
This behavior is not only an issue involving celebrities either. These issues impact the lives of so many on a daily basis. These issues are at our jobs, our schools and even out in public.
Just look at the workplace alone. 44 percent of women have encountered unwanted sexual advances while at work, according to a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan, in the 2015 Huffington Post article. 25 percent have said they received lewd text messages or emails, according to the same survey.
And women are not the only victims of sexual harassment either.
In late October, actor Kevin Spacey was accused of sexually harassing numerous men, including some instances in which the victims were still minors. And these are just a handful of instances in which men were sexually assaulted.
Women can also be the perpetrators of sexual harassment. In August, Shawnetta D. Reece, a middle school gym teacher in Georgia, was arrested and charged with child molestation and sexual assault following an inappropriate relationship she had with a student who was 15 years old at the time of the incident, according to the New York Post.
Sexual assault is everywhere. It’s truly terrifying. Why should anybody have to fear being sexually assaulted simply by going to work? Or going to school?
People such as Matt Lauer or Harvey Weinstein losing their jobs is a step in the right direction. Sexual predators should have no place in a work environment. However, the true damage has been done to the victims who have to live with the memories of their assault.
Sexual assault is a major issue that needs to be in the spotlight. Without people speaking up about the issue, it will continue to live on as a dark cloud in our society. This is why anyone, in any place, regardless of their status, should report sexual harassment when they see it.