The Normalization of Sexual Assault in Media: YES means YES

Donald Trump’s evasion of responsibility for his statement about grabbing women’s “p***y” is reflective of a larger issue. This is not the first time Trump has made deplorable comments about women, especially women of color, such as Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Trump’s sexist rhetoric emanates anywhere from casual encounters to business deals behind closed doors. As more women who have encountered the man come forward to disclose their instances of sexual assault, Trump’s slogan should be replaced with “Proceed with Caution.”

Trump’s comment on women’s genitalia is also an insult to men. Men do not need to put women down to make themselves feel better. While Trump and others who condone his behavior dismiss this with a “boys will be boys” mentality, his actions speak louder than words and contribute to the larger narrative of rape culture. Boys will be held accountable for their actions just as girls are.

There are a variety of factors contributing to the prevalence of rape culture, much preceded before Trump’s entrance into the presidential election. One factor being mainstream media perpetually showcasing women’s bodies as fragmented and hypersexualized. This gradual dehumanizing process contributes to the exploitation of women. Women’s bodies are not sexual conquests nor something to be “grabbed” at. Engaging in a sexual act with or touching another individual involves complete, enthusiastic consent. (If you believe there is any gray area, check out this brief but informative video on consent.)

College aged individuals are more most susceptible to sexual violence. Women between the ages of 18–24 are three times more likely than any other group of women to encounter sexual assault. Sexual assault should not be part of the college experience.

Unfortunately, more than one-fourth of undergraduate women at a large group of leading universities said they had been sexually assaulted by force or when they were incapacitated. So why aren’t more people reporting?

More high profile cases such as the Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz and Brock Turner case unveil the ugly truth about how sexual violence is addressed in the United States. Women’s truths are questioned and often they face beratement when bringing their cases forward. Reviewing some of the outcomes of sexual assault charges, a privileged group of individuals are often not held to the same standard. Trump is no exception. He vehemently denies allegations from women who have come forward to accuse him of rape, attempted rape and or sexual assault.

Students provide a glimmer of hope by taking a stand against how sexual assault is handled on college campuses. Collaboration and activism are effective approaches to combat rape culture. Rutgers University and other universities have an annual Take Back the Night rally and march to raise awareness about sexual assault and gender-based violence.

College students at Rutgers take the matter seriously. Scream Theater uses interactive skits to educate audiences on issues of interpersonal violence, specifically on sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. Just this week, students carried a bed down College Avenue with the message, “Consent matters. It’s freely given and continuous. Consent is “YES!”

The first step is disrupting the silence on sexual assault and holding perpetrators accountable. Trump’s comments and others are not banter, and it’s time we start addressing them with the weight they deserve.

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