Sexual assault: no one ever thinks it could happen to them until it does.
In 2006, sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke coined the phrase “Me Too” in an effort to provide solidarity with women who had survived sexual violence. In 2016, Me Too became a full-fledged movement for both women and men to share their stories of sexual violence and support each other.
Now more than ever it is being recognized that sexual violence has happened more often than dated studies perceived. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, “about 10% of high school students were sexually assaulted in 2017, with females (15 %) experiencing higher rates than males (4.3%).” Anyone can be in that ten percent, classmates, friends, siblings.
According to the same survey, 74% of the 10% of high school students indicated that they had been assaulted by someone they knew well, 32% were friends, 21% were family members, while only 23% were strangers.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reported that out of 1000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators walk free, but this is because most assaults go unreported. The Department of Justice found that only 310 out of 1000 sexual assaults are reported to police.
There are many reasons that assaults go unreported; many victims just want to forget about their experience and not face the trauma of trial, some victims want to protect their family and friends, others are too ashamed of their experiences to talk about it, among many more possible reasons.
The more the Me Too movement flourishes and sexual assault becomes less stigmatized, the more the statistics on reports of sexual assault with change.
Even in Olathe schools students have experienced sexual violence. An anonymous female source, for the purposes of this article will be called Wren, spoke on her sexual assault experience. She was assaulted multiple times at age 16 by her then steady boyfriend.
It took her awhile to talk to anyone.
“I told people I was in a relationship but I hadn’t ever told anyone that he was pushing so hard,” said Wren.
While she has told a few close friends and now speaks more openly about her experience, she has never told her parents. This is a common theme in children, as 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about their abuse for over a year.
Wren used art, music, and time to cope with her assault.
“Knowing myself and knowing my boundaries. And knowing my worth and knowing that it wasn’t my fault,” Wren said, when asked what helped her to cope the most.
The Me Too movement has also aided in Wren’s healing process.
“It does make me feel more supported,” Wren said, “Since that movement has come around, the stigma about sexual harassment in general has gone down a little.”
Lady Gaga’s story in particular moved Wren. After Lady Gaga was raped, she didn’t tell anyone for seven years. After she felt comfortable enough to speak out, she co-wrote and recorded the song “Til It Happens to You” to accompany campus-rape documentary “The Hunting Ground.”
“That song resonated with me so much,” said Wren, “She’s my idol.”
Me Too has become more popular as celebrities have spoken out about their stories of sexual abuse and harassment. The 2018 Oscars focused heavily on the movement. Many celebrities dressed in black in solidarity with victims and many speeches mentioned hope for survivors and anger against perpetrators, specifically Harvey Weinstein who was convicted of rape last week.
Since the hashtag was brought to Twitter in 2016, millions of Twitter users have shared their stories or support for victims using it. Celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Gwenyth Paltrow, Terry Crews and Uma Thurman helped the movement gain momentum.
Anyone can experience sexual violence. Telling a trusted adult can help victims to feel less alone and better get help to work through what has happened to them.
If you or someone you know needs help, there are many resources available. Gateway of Hope is a women’s only center with counseling, support groups, and life coaching. Male Survivor is a company that helps men find resources to work through sexual trauma. 1in6 is also men-exclusive and offers both private and group online chats. The Help Clinic is a way for students and families to access a variety of different types of free counseling from mental health professionals in the Olathe School District. Visit the counseling office for help creating a mental health plan and for more resources.