Opinion

Help speak up against assault

Sexual Assault Awareness Month encourages women to tell their stories.

Alexa ZizziThroughout the Cosby allegations, as much as I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help but question the credibility of those women. As sad as it sounds, some people will do anything for money and attention, and with such prestige and wealth at stake—considering a false accusation in this particular scenario doesn’t sound too insensitive.

I was deep in thought, questioning this sad assault stigma when a realization struck me—it wasn’t the number of women who spoke up that truly baffled me—it was the fact that it took that long for at least one woman to speak up.

Sadly enough, this is extremely common with victims of sexual abuse.

Too often, women repress their assault. Many are encouraged to tell their stories and fight for justice, but aren’t always supported by the judicial system, which can result in even more emotional damage.

By sexual abuse I don’t just mean uncomfortable flirting, vulgar remarks and the occasional groping. I mean condescending, brainwashing, emotionally damaging language, forced sexual intercourse and overall, total control of a person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being—I’m talking total control over a person’s life.

I’ve unfortunately witnessed this happen to a point where the survivor falls so deep under an abuser’s control they don’t even recognize their own identity anymore. For some, these relationships can lead to mental illness, physical health issues and sometimes even suicide.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which for some groups on Main Campus, is the perfect time to bring about cultural change.

Jayinee Basu, an instructional writer for CampusClarity, which runs the virtual “Think About It” course said she thinks a reason survivors of sexual assault don’t speak up is because of the environment they’re in.

“The external environment isn’t necessarily receptive to hearing what happened,” Basu said.

She added that the culture of sexual assault can focus on denial and misogyny which also might prevent survivors from speaking out.

“Our main goal is to change that culture first, then to remove the incentive survivors have for keeping silent,” she said.

Pop singer Kesha and her case against her producer, Dr. Luke,  is a very public example of how a person in power can shake a survivor of sexual abuse, whether it’s mentally or physically. Kesha’s case also represents how the justice system often fails those brave enough to speak up and fight against their abuser.

The pop-singer filed a civil suit in 2014 alleging that Dr. Luke had drugged, sexually assaulted and emotionally abused her for years. Kesha wanted to break her contract with the label and parent company Sony Records to allow a music career outside of Dr. Luke’s control. But on Feb. 19, the New York Supreme Court denied Kesha a preliminary injunction to release her from the label and move forward with the case.

This  legal battle is the prime example of the oppression, emotional and psychological abuse and the prejudice against women.

Kesha shared her story by standing up against her abuser and fighting for justice in court, yet was denied freedom. Nobody should be forced to work with their alleged abuser.

So how are people supposed to feel brave enough to speak out?

Jeremy Beckman, vice president of product design and lead designer for CampusClarity, said “Without a doubt, behavior change itself is what we’re striving for.”

In efforts toward advocating sexual abuse awareness and support on campus, in 2013 Temple adopted the “Think About It” program, in response to Federally mandated sexual assault training for all students. The program is a required online tutorial that addresses responsible college activity and consent.

“We want to change the external reception of information like that so survivors will want to speak out,” Basu said of the program.

Also in 2014, Temple graduate Sam Carter and current senior Miranda Brindza created an on-campus organization, Student Activists for Female Empowerment (SAFE), to spread awareness about sexual abuse and women’s rights.

Carter was inspired by a personal incident she experienced on campus and felt Temple Police didn’t handle well.

“I felt victimized, alone, and felt I needed to share what I knew with others to give people at least a starting point or a network of support to turn to as a one-stop shop of all the information you’ll need,” Carter said.

Brindza, SAFE’s current e-board president, said its mission has always been to serve as “an ally to survivors.”

“We want to let people know there is a group they can always come to for support, resources, to talk to people who are passionate about ending this issue and working with victims and just creating a safe space for survivors and supporters,” Brindza said.

Though society may never fix the broken system or prevent flaws from slipping through the cracks—groups like SAFE on Main Campus that are addressing the problems which might help with the societal and cultural change Basu talked about.

It’s unfortunate celebrities like Kesha get wrapped up in those stigmas, but her using fame to spread awareness is a step in the right direction to destigmatizing sexual assault and those who have survived it.

Alexa Zizzi can be reached at alexa.zizzi@temple.edu.

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