It is no secret that more and more women have been coming forward with reports of sexual assault and misconduct. It’s also no secret that a majority of these accusations have been against individuals with very significant amounts of recognition and success. From Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar to Aziz Ansari and James Franco — what do all these names have in common? Fame, recognition and above all else, power. The power and influence of the attacker over their victim has served as one of the main purposes for victim compliance and unwillingness to fight during many of the assaults, which have now become a spectacle of the public eye.
The influence that the attacker has over the victim’s everyday life can lead to years of silence after the fact. This trend has been seen in Uma Thurman’s case against Harvey Weinstein, in which she remained silent and continued to work on movies with the director for 16 years following the assault.
In addition to years of silence and trauma, these victims are undergoing a second assault at the hands of the public. The Washington Examiner wrote, “there is no such thing as a [woman’s] right to be believed,” and goes on to remedy the opinion held in relation to false accusations, explaining that there is a much higher percentage of truthful accusations than false ones. What seems to be the unpopular opinion, but remains an opinion nonetheless, is that since these women have remained silent for so long, their accusations can’t possibly be true. When viewing various offenses as an act of power rather than an act of sexuality or desire, the dehumanizing effects of sexual assault are clear, and potentially explain why these survivors chose to remain silent for so long.
Imagine being a fresh graduate, walking into your first day of work. This is the job you’ve spent four or more years cramming, studying, sweating and slaving to earn your degree to be qualified for. Upon walking into your office, a senior member follows you in, closes and locks the door. You’re told that you must do something for him to keep your position. You’re stuck. Do you comply and keep your job while engaging in the moments of discomfort that are bound to follow? Or do you fight, potentially losing your position, but also escaping an undeniably dehumanizing act? A majority of women have chosen the former, not wanting to risk their own professional demise at the hands of going against someone with a significant amount of influence over them.
We live in an era in which we have been conditioned to understand that there are negative consequences for speaking out against those who are in a position of power over us. It’s time to move out of this era and into one where women are not penalized for speaking against acts of aggression and dominance.