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Ending Sexual Violence

July 18th, 2014 05:00:00 am

Ending Sexual Violence

Recently, Angelina Jolie—actress, UN Ambassador, and all-around Superwoman—was the keynote speaker of the four-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by the UK government.


“It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There's nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power.”

...According to the U.N. Children's agency, UNICEF, more than 150 million young girls and 73 million boys experience sexual violence every year, and children in conflict-affected countries are the most vulnerable.

Yet shockingly few perpetrators are ever prosecuted or convicted. - CNN


Also grabbing headlines lately is the militant group Boko Haram, who kidnap and ransom young girls, using them as pawns. The most notable is the kidnapping of 200 girls in northern Nigeria, but this is not an isolated incident.


Neither is this isolated to regions of conflict and war. Try as we might to ignore it, rape is happening in our own backyards. The New York Times recently ran an article detailing how poorly Hobart and William Smith, colleges in New York state, treated a sexual assault last fall:


Two of the three panel members (investigating the alleged rape) did not examine the medical records showing blunt force trauma—it was the chairwoman's prerogative not to share them. Instead, the panel asked what Anna had drunk, who she may have kissed and how she had danced. It was, Anna said, as if admitting you were grinding—a common way of dancing—“means you therefore consent to sex or should be raped.” - New York Times


I agree with Ms. Jolie: Rape is always an act of power, not sex. What we are seeing are a bunch of powerless, oversized boys—who will never really be men—taking their anger and aggression out on women. Men proving how mighty they are through the act of rape and violence. We contribute to rape culture through treating women as objects and possessions. Like the article above demonstrates, we'd rather blame the woman for what she wore and how she acted than face up to the fact that the constant objectification of women leads to acts of violence.


The sexually assaulted student at Hobart and William Smith was threatened by other students when she brought allegations on the three football students who violated her, while those boys were let off without punishment. She wasn't rich. She wasn't a football player. Even if witnesses and medical records confirmed what she said, her words aren't taken seriously. She was humiliated, labeled a whore.


This isn't an isolated incident. According to the same article, “federal officials estimate that up to 20 percent of college students will be sexually assaulted in school;” male or female. But it doesn't just happen to college students in America or young girls in Nigeria. And as long as we treat women as possessions, letting men—oversized boys—get away with bad behavior, our sick world will get sicker. As long as playing the right sport or being born into a rich family gives you a get out of jail free card, this will continue to happen.


This is one of the signs I think will end civilization as we know it. If we don't look at women as equals, as beings worthy of empowerment, and allow bullies—football players or Boko Haram, Muslim or Christian—to have their way, our world will never be better. We have to stand up to bullies. We have to take back our power. We have to empower ourselves, our society, and stand up to say “no more.”



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