Recently, we’ve been hearing about sexual assault quite a lot. Every day, there seems to be a new case of sexual misconduct. So, what exactly is sexual misconduct and is it really that common? The simplest answer is sexual misconduct is any and all forms of unwanted sexual advances against someone and yes, it is way more common than we think. Sexual assault happens right under our roof, at our schools, at work, at our place of worship, in the streets, in the woods, and basically any place else you can think of. Anyone can be victims of sexual abuse—women, men and children. Anybody can be a perpetrator—men, women, family, friends, teachers, priests, bosses, strangers. Unfortunately, this is a secretive subject, we, as a culture don’t like talking about it.
When victims come forward, they are encouraged to stay silent and forget their trauma. The justice system hasn’t done victims any justice either, always turning a blind eye to this topic. Parents, siblings, friends and neighbors when confronted with this issue--do all they can to cover it up so that the perpetrator doesn’t suffer, especially if said perpetrator is a family member. We need to break this habit and stop stigmatizing victims of sexual violence. We need to listen and understand their trauma. We need to mobilize ourselves and our policies forward so that victims can get closure and justice. We need to hold abusers accountable for their actions and hand down appropriate legal consequences. Unfortunately, some people commit these heinous crimes due to lack of knowledge, even though it seems simple to most of us: if someone says no, you stop.
To avoid this confusion and to clear up things to those who might not know what is considered a sexual misconduct, I will further elaborate on what each term means. Let’s start with sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is “an umbrella term for any misconduct of a sexual nature that is of lesser offense than felony sexual assault (such as rape and molestation), particularly where the situation is normally non-sexual and therefore unusual for sexual behavior, or where there is some aspect of personal power or authority that makes sexual behavior inappropriate.” This is the umbrella definition of all sexual misconducts.
Sexual assault “takes many forms including attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person's body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person's consent. Rape is an “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person's will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception.
Now that we know what each term means, and we understand everything listed above is a crime, it is our responsibility to educate and advocate for an abuse free culture. It is our responsibility to validate the hurt victims experience and fight for their right to basic human decency and control of their own body. It is our responsibility to bring abusers forward and report an abuser (in most cases, with the consent of the abused). This is only possible if we believe victims. The overwhelming majority of accusers have nothing to gain by coming forward with a sexual abuse allegation. In fact, it takes quite a lot of courage to come forward. When victims take this step and come forward, it is our basic decency to give them the benefit of the doubt and consider their story to be true until proven otherwise. Doubting their story is encouraging rape culture and we need to break this tradition.
Written by Tamer Dannehy (IG: @dennehy_17)