It is a fact of life that in the imperfect world we live in, sexual harassment and/or assault can affect anyone and everyone. While anyone can be victimized, it is well known that most cases of sexual offenses occur by men taking advantage of women. (1) This is not to say that female victims are any more important or that their abusers are more heinous, but that their abuse is more frequent. Obviously, it is impossible to completely eliminate rape or any other crime from society. However, there are many ways to prevent sexual harassment and assault against women in particular. Here are some feasible ways society can prevent sexual offenses: getting rid of its acceptance of sexual harassment, making it easy for women to report in the first place, and once an offense is reported, making sure the offender is given due penalization. On the whole, there are many positive actions, both cultural and practical, both men and women can take to make the world a safer place.
People unconsciously support violent behavior in men in various degrees when they–intentionally or not– engage in sexist and misogynistic behavior. Examples of these types of manners include believing rape is equivalent to sex, teaching girls to not incentivize assault instead of teaching boys not to rape, blaming or discrediting the victim, the pervasive practice of street harassment/catcalling, extreme sexualization of women, rape “jokes,” etc. The list could go on and on. Rape is an act of violence and power imbalance, not sex. There is nothing inherently wrong with teaching girls to dress modestly. However, sometimes a victim’s “inappropriate” dress is used to justify sexual harassment or assault, because “boys just can’t control themselves.” Honestly, we all know it does not matter whether a girl is wearing a bikini or a burka- men who do not respect women are likely to sexualize them no matter what they’re wearing. For instance, I was going for a run down my street around a year ago and was wearing loose running shorts and an athletic t-shirt. My hair was messy and I was sweating; I have an average build and knew there was nothing special about my appearance that day. However, because yelling sexual remarks is a societal norm, I got catcalled from a guy in the passenger seat of an oncoming car. Catcalling is a form of harassment, not a compliment. It is demeaning- most women do not walk out of the house with the sole objective of having a guy yell out a so called compliment. Most women want to get to work safely. Compliments that do not focus on appearance could be “That was really clever!” or “It’s so nice to hear your laugh,” or “I’m really glad you’re here,” or anything other than “You should smile more.” In addition, hyper sexualization of women is clearly a factor of rape culture for many reasons. Examples of hyper sexualization would include overly sensualized ads on television and media, female character’s primary roles as love interests in the cinematic world, child beauty pageants, restaurants like Hooters, etc. These customs promote the idea that women’s worth is objectifiable and primarily for pleasure. When men degrade women’s value down to their bodies, it gives them (wrongfully) a give-take mentality where they end up typically end up taking. People can take a stand against these toxic traditions by believing victims’ reports rather than shaming them, condemning sexual offenses rather than justifying them, and seeing women as human, not objects for personal gain.
In my experience, some opinions regarding the subject of reporting offenses claim that women do not or should not having difficulty reporting an sexual offense. Common beliefs imply that with rise of women taking a stand on social media the issue of the law/media not believing victims’ stories is nonexistent or quickly becoming so. While this argument definitely has cons, it does have some good evidence to back itself up. In January 2017, a judge sentenced the doctor of the women’s Olympic gymnastic team, Larry Nassar, up to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting at least 150 girls under the facade of medical treatment, as a result of team member McKayla Maroney’s courage to speak up on social media (2). A rare few had brought accusations against Nassar before in his 20 years of being a team “doctor,” but authorities had ignored all reports until over 265 girls spoke up following Maroney’s public accusation. (3)What is most astounding about this story is how this pedophile was able to carry on with his lifestyle for so long. It goes without saying that there is something wrong with the justice system when the government allows such despicable actions to continue on, even after being brought to light. Evidently, though social media can be a place that brings crime to light, it is not a solution to the vast majority of ongoing criminal practices. Another attitude that arises when women report sexual offenses and express wariness of men is the “not all men” hashtag. This response does not enlighten women to the fact that there are good men out there- they know that. It does, however detract from the real issue of violence. Of course all men are not misogynistic and violent, but all men need to stand up and advocate for the safety of men and women.