The Suffolk Journal

Filed under Opinion

Students could be the catalyst for change

After the worst year of sexual assault, 2018 should be used to educate people on combatting the misconduct

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In high school and throughout college, students are often told that “no” means no and the absence of a firm no does not mean yes. Students are told that if last week it was okay, this week it may not be. Students are told to be respectful and pay attention to each other’s desires and limits in intimate situations. Students are told to just be, at the very least, respectful human beings.

But given the latest up rise in news and media coverage about sexual assault crimes, there is an implication we may have overlooked or didn’t listen to what we were told growing up. As a country, city and college community, we need to do better.

According to a USA Today article published in late October of 2017, Harvey Weinstein had compiled an astounding 84 accusers against him. And we as a nation maligned Weinstein rather brusquely. Larry Nassar, former Olympic physician, has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sex crimes, according to the New York Times.

It’s become much more apparent how we should behave regarding sexual acts and consent. But the issues we as a city, a school and a nation are trying to address are still going on despite the massive overhaul of sexual misconduct cases in Hollywood and around the nation.

Since these issues are still occurring, it begs the questions: have we as a nation been desensitized to the seriousness of this issue? Has the news coverage regarding people like Weinstein and Nassar numbed us to the issue of sexual assault?

Given that sexual misbehaviors prevail despite the Weinstein, Nassar cases and other cases that have raised awareness, it is not unreasonable to suggest that we might not take these issues as seriously as we should. And it’s time for us as a nation and as students to not only acknowledge that this is a problem in our society, but to change our moral compass and our ideology to never allow this behavior to occur on the smallest scale. We need to all question how we respect each other’s space and boundaries. And though Sex-Ed courses and news coverage are important, they aren’t going to cut it.

Being complacent with the fact that sexual misconduct is going to occur regardless is not going to move society closer from eradicating such behavior. And stepping into any club, bar or party, there will likely be lots of people turning away or ignoring it when someone doesn’t act the way they should in a sexual manner. That itself is the problem. Though most people are told by their parents, teachers and peers that they must get consent and act with respect, how many will speak up if they witness someone perpetrating?

What is going to get people to act accordingly, young or old, is a morality change. Actions speak volumes in dispersing poor behavior. And when it comes to sexual misconduct, which is a crime that often happens in a clandestine or quiet setting, being able to do our part as citizens and at least be able to stop it in public setting is the first step in ousting it from society. If all average citizens can learn to identify and act against the perpetrator in any situation where sexual misconduct is occurring or could occur, we as a country may be more inclined to act accordingly ourselves.

It isn’t “playing hard to get” when someone says no. It isn’t being nice or complimenting someone by commenting on their body in a belligerent fashion such as cat-calling. And we should all be heartbroken to see these acts and others occur as often as they do. Whether the case is full-blown rape or something less severe, nobody should condone this type of behavior or turn a blind eye to it. Being a bystander doesn’t defeat bullies.

The list of sexual assault cases that came out in 2017 should have been a wake up call, but have not been. They should have been a gateway to eventually eradicate misogyny, misandry and objectification of people. It’s time for all of us to speak up and be more cognizant of our actions and others’ actions when put around tough situations.

We must take these issues much more seriously. Only then will we see these behaviors dwindle away.

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Students could be the catalyst for change