Background

Sexual assault is a very serious and sensitive topic, as many men and women around the world are victims to various forms of sexual violence. In fact, sexual violence is among the most commonly committed crimes in the United States at this time, yet it is also the most underreported. Victims of these crimes can be left with both immediate and long-term effects on their physical and mental health. In addition to the physical injury that can be inflicted during the assault, there are also increased risks of sexual and reproductive health problems. The mental health risks are just as serious, as many victims suffer from issues such as, depression, self harm, panic attacks, PTSD, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Their social well-being is also often damaged, as they pull away and isolate themselves from loved ones, close the idea of personal relationships off, and find themselves being scared of everyday. All of this can eventually lead to worse, ultimately having their sexual assault be the cause of death by suicide, HIV infection or others. (Effects of Sexual Violence, n.d.)

This brief insight on the horrific outcomes of sexual assault is enough to show why it’s important to analyze and address the current state of how the legal system treats perpetrators and cases, and how society looks at victims. Examining the strengths and weaknesses is what needs to be done to understand where improvement is needed. 

Over the past twenty years, efforts have been made to change the culture and stigmas surrounding sexual assault, and to empower victims to speak up. Despite these attempts, these crimes are still not being fully addressed as needed. Let’s look at Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Brett Kavanaugh. In July of 2018, Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump to succeed Justice Kennedy, whom was retiring. Just a few months later, in September, Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward and said when they were at a party in high school, Kavanaugh and his friend had trapped her in a room and sexually assaulted her. Before the end of the month, another woman came out with similar story of Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her, as well as another saying he exposed himself to her without her consent. Kavanaugh denied every allegation that came his way, and over those weeks, many came to his defense. Using phrases that are all too familiar when it comes to sexual assault cases. Brushing off the allegations because “she admits she was drunk”, or saying “well if this actually happened, charges would have been filed immediately.”, or playing the “this poor man’s life has been ruined” card. (Tatum, 2018) Donald Trump, the president of the United States, (who, by the way, has had 26 women come forward with stories of him sexually assaulting them) even mimicked Ford’s testimony during a campaign rally. (Malloy, 2018) Let’s take the factor of who is, and isn’t, telling the truth out of the equation for a second to focus purely on the fact that there were victims of sexual assault sitting at home, watching this woman be silenced, shamed and mocked for coming forward with her story. She was ridiculed by many, and by October, Kavanaugh was sworn-in to his powerful position after a limited investigation. It is damaging for victims to see this type of behavior and attitude towards those who come forward, as it plays a huge part in keeping them silent, as the crimes go unaddressed. 

References

Effects of Sexual Violence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence

Malloy, A., Sullivan, K., & Zeleny, J. (2018, October 03). Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/02/politics/trump-mocks-christine-blasey-ford-kavanaugh-supreme-court/index.html

Tatum, S. (2018). Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination: A timeline. Retrieved October 20, 2020,
from https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/10/politics/timeline-kavanaugh/

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