Women’s History Month is about celebrating all the women in our lives and those who came before us to pave the way for gender equality. Among the conversations about the trailblazers in women’s history should also be conversations about the work that is left to be done, as social equality is still very much a present issue. Topics like sexual health, reproductive rights and sexual assault remain prevalent parts of the social and political landscape, with each of them lacking representation in the education system.
Education regarding sexual assault, in particular, is lackluster at best. We can all acknowledge that the statistics surrounding sexual assault are disturbing, but what are we really doing to fix the issue? On average, one American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. While a majority of these assault victims are female, males can also be the victims of attempted or completed rapes.
Steps are being made to stop so-called “date rape drugs” from being an issue on college campuses, with the Ole Miss Associated Student Body working with the Oxford Police Department to create initiatives such as coasters that detect ‘roofies’ and the new angel shot initiative to make it easier for women to covertly ask for help. While these steps are positive, there is still not very much education surrounding what to do after being sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault can look a lot of different ways, but 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Assault does not always include weapons, and it is usually not by a masked figure who appears from the darkness, as we can sometimes be led to believe. What this all adds up to is that reporting sexual assault, and even coming to terms with the fact that an incident was rape, is more difficult than most people understand.
We need to focus more on educating young people on what qualifies as consent and what to do after you have been sexually assaulted. Studies have shown that in 2016 nearly 80% of rapes and sexual assaults went unreported, which is just as staggering a statistic as the number of people who are victims of these crimes.
When people are armed with information, they are more likely to come forward. Rape is unfortunately a difficult thing to prove, and receiving a rape kit can be very traumatic as it is very invasive and must be administered within 24 hours in order to get any sort of DNA evidence. A simple thing such as taking a shower or using the bathroom can immediately negate the test. If people are taught these things in advance, they may be more likely to get to a hospital and be willing to have a rape kit done.
I understand that trauma affects everyone differently, and no matter how much education is out there, some rape and sexual assault cases will likely still go unreported or unable to be proven based on DNA evidence. If there is a chance that education can help even a few people obtain justice for the crimes against them though, isn’t it worth it?
This Women’s History Month, let’s take time to celebrate the powerful women of our history, but let’s also take time to focus our efforts on the future and all that is left to be done to protect, educate, and empower the women of today.
Liv Briley is a junior integrated marketing communications major from Lemont, Ill.