Today a student asked me “how it is legal to have a president that sexually harasses or assaults people” and asked me to explain “how people could vote for that“. No matter how you voted, answering that fairly with an attempt and non bias was the hardest moment I’ve had teaching.
It was a question that deserved and needed an answer, but risked offending some and creating discomfort for others. But when have hard questions ever been an easy or comfortable answer.
The way people vote is a reflection of their beliefs. What many advocates have already known was recently confirmed; sexual assault is not a key issue for this country. Sure, people are assaulted and raped daily, and survivors keep fighting to regain a piece of themselves each day. Nearly 20% of the population has experienced some form of sexual harassment, yet it makes us too uncomfortable to talk about.
Unfortunately, we as a nation are not as open minded as we like to project. We still victim blame, slut shame, and hyper sexualize, while perpetrators rarely have charges brought against them, and are even less frequently convicted, and when they are a short jail sentence or a small sum of money is all thats needed to return to their normal rapist life. Why? Because you can put a price tag on trauma? We can return whats been taken to victims through a few months jail time? Because she asked for it?
No. Because we are not yet capable to step out of our safe trenches of ignorance and prejudice long enough to feel discomfort and openly have conversations. Due to this, victims experience prolonged trauma, lack proper support, and find themselves having to defend the fact that they have even been harmed because it is easier for society to say it we asked for it. No one says that to a cancer patient.
When we allow this system to continue, we allow perpetrators to be less than they can be. We plague society. We tell victims that we do not believe them and prevent them from healing, further severing them from comfort, trust, love and acceptance. We affirm assault is ok. We maintain bodies are up for grabs and are not human. We prevent progress and ensure more damage to fellow people.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to say “Yes sexual violence is wrong, and I won’t stand for it.”
Cant we at least try?