You most likely know of it already. An aspiring artist has gone public about the alleged sexual assault involving a much-older and internationally-known artist.
The day in question is ordinary which makes it chillingly familiar to most of us. The accuser told us how the setting felt safe. She met her alleged assailant during an event through a mutual friend she trusted. After grabbing dinner and drinks, they decided to stay over at that mutual friend’s house. She slept alone in a guest room only to wake up a few hours later, when the accused was groping her and trying to unbutton her blouse.
Instead of staying quiet and denying the situation happened, she immediately filed the necessary report to the women’s desk of the police. She’s even taken it a step further by talking to the press. While waiting for the summons, she tells us that she hopes her story will encourage more women to speak up. She hopes not just to get justice for herself but that this whole ordeal serves a lesson.
“I really hope this [teaches] men to be more mindful and to shake off their misogynistic layers,” she says. “Also, may this bring a voice to all women who have been silenced by trauma and fear of men’s actions that we don’t deserve.”
As we’ve previous mentioned, sexual misconduct isn’t about sex, it is about power. Women often find it hard to defend themselves because the man who assaulted them has some leverage or position over them in society. It was how Louis C.K. lured younger comediennes to watch him masturbate. It’s how Harvey Weinstein intimidated his victims. In this case, the man has a reputation to uphold along with an international following. All this add to how women are shamed into silence and fear. “Who would believe you?” as the man is revered and relied upon by others. Allegations of extortion are easily thrown, setting up the women to look like she’s conniving and manipulative.
This is why the scars of sexual assault run deep and can take years to heal, if they ever do. “Sexual misconduct is another form of violence against women or VAW,” says artist and feminist Nikki Luna. “And when this happens, it disempowers women. It takes away their confidence, dignity, and ultimately strikes the personhood of a woman.”
There is also the fact that most perpetrators of sexual assault are people known to the victim. They aren’t strangers hiding in the dark, they aren’t creeps who lurk around. They are friends of friends, people who present themselves to the world as decent individuals, even relatives you trust. The dynamics of sexual assault and the power society has given to men always puts women at a disadvantage. It already casts doubt on the women’s claims. “How can he act this way in private with you when he has a different face to everyone else?” Who else can we trust if we are abused by those we consider close to us?
The fight against this kind of violence isn’t just solely on the victim’s shoulders. “We cannot expect the survivor/victim to react or respond right away, most often than not they hesitate to come forward and call out abusers with all the scrutiny on the victim’s background,” says Nikki. “We need to put our trust and respect with the one wrong in the situation. It takes a lot to disclose and open up since it would be reliving the awful experience again.”
Such problems will never be solved quickly. We need to recognize how society has already predisposed women in compromising situations. How to dismantle something so complex and rampant? The answer starts with speaking up, and letting women know that they shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed. It starts with recognizing how rape culture pervades almost every aspect of daily life. We must then call out even the smallest indications to prevent them from growing into crimes. Speaking up is hardly the final step but it is always the very first and best way towards change.