Community members participate in a march for Take Back the Night on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. Take Back the Night was a sexual assault awareness event. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Helton: Fighting sexual violence should be everyone’s fight

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Recent allegations against Louis C.K., Roy Moore show that it’s up to all of us to stand up to sexual violence.

By Elijah Helton

elijah-helton@uiowa.edu

There isn’t a whole lot of bipartisanship remaining in American politics. It’s hard to come up with specific solutions to complex problems. It can be even harder agreeing on if a problem exists and is worth addressing.

I get it. I can be just as susceptible as the next person for digging in my heels and never consider compromising. People, from elected officials to electricians, hate to change their opinions. We hate it even more if changing our opinion means changing our behavior. But there are some problems that haven’t been politicized, and with good reason. One of the most prevalent of these problems is sexual violence.

There’s a hurricane in the current news cycle of celebrities accused of varying sexual crimes. Comedian Louis C.K. is accused by five women of sexual misconduct. Former President of FIFA Sepp Blatter is accused by U.S. soccer star Hope Solo of sexual assault. Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama Roy Moore is accused by four woman of pursuing sexual contact with them when they were teenagers.

It would be unfair to say there’s an epidemic just because three men are alleged monsters, but the hard numbers show a massive problem with sex crimes. The following statistics are from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

20 percent of American women will be raped in their lifetime.

1.4 percent of American men will be raped in their lifetime.

Rape costs the United States $127 billion every year.

63 percent of rape is not reported to police.

To clarify, these are just the stats for rape. They don’t include unwanted indecency, groping, and other harassment made by men and women, all of which are forms of sex crimes. You don’t have to be a survivor to know that something has to be done.

There is no need to shift blame when the blame already covers every corner of society. Just because Moore is a Republican doesn’t mean that conservatives are somehow to blame. After all, it was major Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein whose accusations of sexual misconduct dominated the headlines days before the Moore story broke. This is why we all must treat the enormous problem of sexual violence with the significance it demands.

So what are we supposed to do?

Unfortunately, simply making something illegal doesn’t stop everyone from doing it. If that were true, we’d never have a drunk-driving accident again. Legislation is necessary to the reaction to a crime, but legal punishment only works as a deterrent and not a prohibitor.

It’s impossible to stop every rape, groping and harassment, but there are simple, tangible steps everyone can take.

One of the most important aspects of preventing sexual violence is education. Knowing what unwanted sexual contact looks like is essential in keeping potential victims of sexual violence safe. Consent to sexual contact is only given through clear and continual “yes” and cannot be given under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There are many other ways to prevent sexual violence. More thorough information can be found at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website at www.rainn.org/safety-prevention.

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