Women need to rise up

Megan Jackie, Contributor

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201: actors, politicians, CEOs, comedians, producers, dancers. 201: Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Morgan Freeman, Ray Rice. 201 people have been brought down by the #MeToo movement towards the end of 2018,  and the number is only growing. The majority of these people are men, but no one is safe as women are also included in this number.

Women have had to fight for basic rights and fair treatment for decades upon decades, and in today’s world it is no different. In society, when a women reports any sort of sexual misconduct, the first thought for men in power is how to cover it up. Women are not allowing this to happen any longer as seen in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The #MeToo movement is filled with people supporting and empowering each other to speak up about their suffering and the Time’s Up movement includes those fighting to prevent these misconducts from occurring in the first place.

It is time to force change since it will not be given easily.

Laws need to be more stringent, social norms need to be fixed, and men need to change their behavior. Power is shifting and women are prepared. We will not go down without a fight; a fight we are determined to win. Men are not the only gender with power anymore.

201 down, many battles to go.

Although these men are losing their positions, legally there is not much these victims can do. Most often women are unable to get justice for what they had to endure. Many would call this unfair, ridiculous or simply unacceptable. Victims often do not seek legal repercussions due to the re-victimization and humiliation they will receive from the defendant’s likelihood to blame the victim in court, or the treatment they may receive from the police or their managers (if not taken to the police immediately).

Sexual assault is the most underreported crime, according to Kathleen Daly and Brigitte Bouhours, writers for the University of Chicago Press; only a mere 14 percent of victims report their assault and out of this 14%, only 30% are taken to court. I know these numbers may be surprising, but what some might find unfathomable is that the conviction rate of those accused is 12.5 percent. Just 12.5 percent. Numbers like these are not secluded to just the U.S: Australia, Canada, England and Scotland are similar, forming a world-wide issue. If you were a victim, would you put your faith in the judicial system if you knew these statistics? Don’t you believe victims should be dealt better cards?

Women deserve more than what we are given; we all need better.  

Not only are these issues pervasive in the legal system, but they also spread to organizations and businesses. Harassment and sexual misconduct are either accepted or ignored by those with higher positions all around the nation. Larry Nassar is a living example of this. Now I am sure most have already heard his name before; if not, Nassar was a team doctor for the USA gymnastics national team and a physician at Michigan State University. With this position, Nassar escaped punishment even after continued assault for over 20 years, with 499 known victims. These victims had done all they could to stop Nassar by reporting what happened to any authority available. Parents, coaches, campus and local police, other physicians and psychologists, administrators and USA gymnastics were all notified. Reports were even written up, yet nothing was done.

No action was taken to help the 499 victims.

The lives of these victims were destroyed not just by one man, but by police, organizations, and Michigan State University as a whole. Kyle Stephens, Rachael Denhollander, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and hundreds of others were finally able to, one by one, share their story of how Nassar abused them.

Aly Raisman’s testimony fueled the fire of the women’s movements due to the amount of attention her speech received, “All these brave women have power and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve — a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.” Together these survivors were able to take down Nassar in court with him receiving a sentence of 40-175 years in prison. You may be wondering why I am sharing this with you if these women were able to defeat Nassar. Only those who are naive may believe that this was true justice. These hundreds of victims could have been twenty, four, or one, if only society had given them a chance to share their stories earlier.

No more silence. Time’s Up.

Aly Raisman was not the only one in court who testified and is not the only one who has used her personal experience to open other’s eyes to the horrid and cruel society we have been accustomed to for far too long. #MeToo has become a platform for women of any race, ethnicity or socioeconomic level to finally feel safe to open up about their incidents. A few are as follows:

“I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a nine-year-old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man…. He would smile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he & I knew — that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back.” -America Ferrera

“It’s something I will never forget: the smell of his breath — coffee. He didn’t drink. Cigar breath. I remember what he was wearing: a patchwork robe. A large gold Rolex. A wedding ring that said BC… They can fling all they want. I did not consent to being raped. I didn’t consent to it. I didn’t.” Janice Dickinson

“I found it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate. A lot of the feelings I’ve been having… True disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger that I felt at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment.” -Reese Witherspoon

“I didn’t know how not to blame myself, or think it was my fault. It was something that really changed my life. It changed who I was completely. Because of the way that I dress, and the way that I’m provocative as a person, I thought that I had brought it on myself in some way. That it was my fault”-Lady Gaga

I have never had to experience what these women have had to go through and you have probably not either. I know I am grateful to be able to say this and I am sure you are too. These women mentioned sadly cannot say the same. At some point in their lives, they were violated in ways I cannot put into words, and given a life where they were constantly plagued with the memories of their assailant; memories no matter how hard they try, they will never be able to forget.

These women are not alone. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, and this number does not include any form of harassment. You may have been spared, but have your friends? Your family? We need to ask ourselves why the court system believes men when they say “liar” but not when women scream rape. Why are we continuing to allow this to happen?

Those who are part of the #MeToo and Time’s up movements are not sitting on the sideline, but are out on the battlefield.

Will you join them?