Rising voices of victims initiate crucial conversations

STEPHANIE SANCHEZ

sasanchez15@ole.augie.edu

The first shocking piece of advice I remember receiving from my mother was to not walk through dark streets, to stay alert and to not bring attention to myself. “Ignore the catcallers,” she said when I was barely 10 years old. “They can be dangerous if you acknowledge them.”  

sanchez mugshot

Growing up as girls, we are told what not to wear, where not to walk and whom not to talk to. A series of prohibitions are established to supposedly keep us safe from the ever-present predators on this precarious planet. With fear, we cover the fast-paced beating of our hearts with the click of our heels. 

From microaggressions such as being interrupted in everyday conversations to violent acts of rape and murder, we wake up every morning readying ourselves to face a world that pretends to listen and care when it most certainly does not. It’s a world which intentionally chooses ignorance until the thunderous noise of abused women roars too loudly for it to be ignored. 

First, it was Bill Cosby, then Bill O’Reilly and, most recently, Harvey Weinstein. Years of harassment led to an avalanche of women coming forward with their stories of an unwanted advance, a sneaky hand, a seemingly innocent meeting, a promise of favors, a complete lack of morals, rape. 

Each account sounded like the same story retold countless times. It always ended the same way—a vulnerable woman stripped of her worth, and a powerful man, untouched. 

Social media erupted with copious recollections of harassment. Tweets poured from all over, united by a simple, yet powerful hashtag: #MeToo. A girl mentioned the first time she heard an obscene comment in the street. A woman recalled the time she was stalked. 

I tweeted about the time I was followed by a group of men in a deserted station. For the first time, victims were speaking up about an ever present issue, a perpetual worry in our lives which was only background noise in the minds of the other half of the population. 

Stigmas imposed by society make it difficult for victims to come forward without fearing that their honesty will be questioned or that their decisions will be shamed.

Blaming the victim is so ingrained into our mentality that the perpetrators have had the odds in their favor from day one. It is not hard to understand why victims of abuse prefer to keep quiet and carry the burden of silence, as if they were the ones who brought the pain upon themselves. A life ruined can equal to three months in prison, just ask Brock Turner.

Bringing to light the harassment coming from people like Harvey Weinstein is not only necessary to have justice served to the vultures that prey on women, but also to allow a much-needed dialogue about sexual abuse. Women have been historically silenced, so it is time for society to stop victim-blaming, ignoring hard truths and trying to justify predatory behavior. 

Allowing women to speak up initiates substantial conversations that will benefit the moral health of a hypocritical society. Although advances are being made, a long road still lies ahead, because while some predators are shamed by the public, others are elected to the highest office in the land. 

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