One by one, women across the U.S. are coming out of the closet to reveal past encounters with sexual predators or to expose personal incidences of past sexual assaults kept hidden for years, even decades. The anger, pain and suffering of these women we see on our TV screens has become a daily dose of soap-opera style entertainment, exacerbated by others who are forced to comment on the accuser’s veracity rather than address a deeper and more widespread problem of rampant sexual victimization.
To our dismay, we in the media have lumped reports of these heinous acts into a category of “sexual scandals” focusing primarily on the celebrity of those accused and the potential harm these accusations may bring to bear on their reputations or their careers. These incidences have become nothing more than a one-off for the individual who may lose a job, a contract, maybe face some jail time but most likely not because the incident happened so long ago. We are preoccupied with the impact of the accusations on the party, the election, the movie, or the game, while diminishing the toll it has taken on the psyche of innumerable sexual assault victims, including men, women and children who lack celebrity status but need someone to hear them, too.
So, what becomes of the victim? What does he or she gain by exposing the truth, their truth to the world? Payback? There is nothing that can be returned to a victim who has been sexually assaulted, especially when the assault occurred during the most vulnerable time of their life — their childhood. What does the political or legal response say to those who have not spoken out and to those who are still being victimized, even now while you are reading this editorial?
This crisis won’t go away by simply turning off the television. It calls for a massive public awareness campaign informing the assailants and their victims, particularly children, that sexual assault is a sickness but more importantly a crime — and that help is available and accessible now.