By Madeline Barclay
It is hard to ignore what is happening in Hollywood. Our news feeds are filled with hearsay. The responses surrounding sexual assault can bring awareness to the issues, but sometimes it can be damaging. I have read far too many articles that support one side and demonize the other.
A few days ago, a piece titled “Aziz Ansari is Guilty Of Not Being a Mind Reader” from The New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss, was shared with me. This article touched on an important issue concerning the lack of communication that occurs during sexual encounters. However, the writer did so in a way that bashed and shamed the woman that was involved with Ansari.
This kind of response will not effectively provide a solution to the problem of sexual violence. As critical thinkers, we need to recognize that the solution lies in the origin of the problem, not within the gossip.
Our institutions have made it a priority to protect students from sexual assault. While I am grateful for that effort, there has been a history of CSB/SJU failing to promote and educate healthy mutually rewarding and
consensual sex. If sexual violence is an institutionalized problem, then finding a solution needs to come from the source: communication in and around sexual encounters.
This should begin as soon as parents, health providers and schools start discussing sex with young people. Our institutions cannot continue to think that they will eliminate sexual violence by only fixing one side of the issue. By silencing positive sexual experiences, they are perpetuating the cycle of negative ones.
Another factor to address is the silencing of men in the discussion of violating sex. Too often I hear that sexual violence is a “women’s issue.” While statistically, more women have been the victims of sexual abuse, men can, and do, experience violating sex. Exclusive language, lessons and tools only further their silence.
All victims of sexual violence, regardless of their gender identity, need to be listened to and supported in the same way. Further than that, though, all people must be educated on sexual violence. When we put the focus on gender, specifically women being the only victims, we not only silence other people’s stories, but we also eliminate the possibility of women being predators.
All people need to be educated on what healthy sex is. Similarly, all people need to be aware and held accountable for their actions, regardless of their gender. The problem of sexual violence will not change by reading articles or watching the news.
Change in our educational system regarding positive sex needs to occur, starting with our institutions. Conversations about healthy sex need to be encouraged and explored instead of silenced, and above all, people seeking their courage and strength need to be listened to, supported and encouraged to speak out.
This is the opinion of Madeline Barclay, CSB senior