Trivializing Sexual Abuse Hurts Victims -- I Would Know

Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 12, 2017 | Go to article overview

Trivializing Sexual Abuse Hurts Victims -- I Would Know


At least one-third of American young adults think it's sexual harassment if a non-partner compliments a woman's appearance. As a sexual assault survivor myself, they're wrong.

The Economist recently detailed opinions on acceptable male behavior, and the results were baffling. The survey, in which participants came from the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Sweden, asked where the line is drawn for sexual harassment. The survey asked participants if they "would consider it sexual harassment if a man, who was not a romantic partner, did the following to a woman?"

I assumed most respondents would accurately label sexual harassment. I was wrong.

Roughly 1-in-4 American young adults say it's "always/usually" sexual harassment if he asks her out for a drink. If this data suggests anything, it's that many young people are misinformed about this issue. The first step toward fixing this problem is to stop trivializing sexual abuse.

By broadening the definitions of sexual abuse to include innocent, non-malicious, flirtatious behavior, our society trivializes the issue. I'm not the only one who has noticed this alarming trend, and it's beginning to face mainstream backlash.

I can almost guarantee you that no one in the sexual assault "survivors club" wants to be a member. I know that I don't. But by so broadly defining sexual abuse, we are adding people to the pool of victims that don't necessarily belong there. More importantly, we're then unable to properly address legitimate cases of abuse.

In the 1999 Supreme Court case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the court defined peer-on-peer harassment in the educational context as conduct that is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities."

When one comes forward as a victim of sexual abuse they are accusing another individual of a heinous crime -- one worthy of jail time. By claiming to be the victim of sexual abuse, the accuser asserts that a predator robbed them of their autonomy and safety.

In contrast, being offered a drink is a voluntary exchange and nowhere near a coercive sexual attack. It doesn't even remotely reflect the Supreme Court's definition of "objectively offensive. …

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