What is Sexual Assault? #MeToo

“I still feel bad that they did that to me. I know I shouldn't feel bad because it's not my fault. But in some part of me it feels like it's my fault. I feel terrible. I know it happened a while ago. I keep replaying it in my mind all the time. When I'm sleeping or alone, I think about it and I just start crying,” anonymous sophomore said.

January 22, 2018

Within the last four months, the #MeToo movement has swept the nation, giving voice to the victims of sexual assault who previously had been forced into silence. It began in October with revelations of years of misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and from there it spread with such fervor that the modern entertainment and media landscapes were altered forever. Entertainers like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. and television personalities like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer have had their careers abruptly derailed following reports of their inappropriate behavior spanning decades. The effects of the movement were seen in areas across the public sphere, exposing prominent journalists, businessmen, and–perhaps most divisively–politicians.

When our elected officials are outed as being sexual harassers, as Americans we hope that the rules remain the same as with anyone else. The hard truth is that politics is not well suited to handle such a tidal wave of public consciousness, and political parties are often far too focused on maintaining power and influence, ignoring the moral ramifications and exploiting a dangerous double standard.

In this ultra-partisan era, one will have a tough time trying to find something that isn’t politically-charged, and sexual assault allegations, unfortunately, are not immune either. Conservatives were more than eager to point out that the majority of the outed perpetrators were Democrats, yet a poll of Trump voters found that only 9 percent believed the allegations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Although they both eventually resigned, Al Franken and John Conyers were both urged by prominent figures in the Democratic Party not to quit because it would potentially weaken their influence in Congress.

In the wake of multiple allegations of assault to underage girls, the RNC suspended funding of the Roy Moore campaign. When a large number of powerful Republicans across the country began condemning Moore and withdrawing support, the national media showered them with praise. However, it became clear that these statements were meant solely to score political points and earn headlines when a week before the election, the RNC reinstated funding, proving the only action they were willing to take was to make themselves look good.

On the other side of the aisle, in response to cries of “What about Bill Clinton?” by conservatives, center-left Democrats brushed this off as nonsense meant to distract from the issue of Trump, instead of addressing the credible accusations of misconduct leveled at the former president, including rape.

In all of these examples, we can say–to a point–justice was served. Weinstein was made public enemy number one, Conyers and Franken are out of Congress and Roy Moore lost his election. But there is one person who has had a litany of allegations thrown his way but somehow remained relatively unscathed. He also just happens to be the most powerful person on the planet. I’m talking, of course, about Donald Trump.

One could make the argument that the 19 Trump accusers were the origin of the movement to rid the world of unwanted sexual advances. The infamous Access Hollywood tape of then-candidate Trump bragging about his various strategies for assaulting women shocked the country and caused massive outrage. As a result, his poll numbers dropped for a bit, but he eventually recovered and won the election. It’s hard to fathom that a scandal as big as this did not sink him, but it didn’t, and now facing cries from opponents to resign, he stands firm in his office in the West Wing. Now, aside from the occasional thinkpiece, it is rarely talked about, because in a time where the news cycle is moving in hyperspeed, it is always just onto the next story. I cannot imagine how hard it is on the women whom he abused to come to terms with the fact he is still at the top making decisions for the country and representing it on the world stage.

The question now is how do we end this subject once and for all? The challenge is having the citizens of the United States look at these people through neutral lenses, without the obstructive and intoxicating nature of politics clouding the truth. Putting aside agendas and focusing a concerted effort to weed out those who have committed these acts is the only way this issue can be laid to rest.

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