A Local Snapshot of a National Epidemic: Sexual Violence at Central

The constant presence of sexual violence in the media has normalized an issue that persists in our own communities. Even at Central, a self-proclaimed “safe learning environment” students feel threatened by peers and staff and have even been victims. With a new story everyday about sexual violence, it should not be as hard as it is to learn about the effects at Central.

From data collected randomly over 150 students, young women unsurprisingly made up the majority of sexual violence victims. Even though there were a small number of documented male victims, their gender and experience as a whole is beginning to be taken more seriously on a global platform. Avid proponent of the #MeToo movement Terry Crews has been open about his experience as a male victim for years. He initially brought his experience into the limelight in hopes that it would inspire other men to speak out about the injustices they have faced.

The overwhelming majority of male victims at Central did not report their abuse to a parent, police officer, teacher, or any other trusted adult. Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, men have been primarily in the background. But another Hollywood presence, actor Anthony Rapp, also wishes to change this.

Rapp originally came forward with his allegations against his former costar, Kevin Spacey, after he was inspired by the women at the helm of the #MeToo movement. Rapp’s main reason for coming forward was in hope that he would inspire others to share their experience.

Although male victims may deal with the same feelings as their female counterparts, the stigma surrounding abuse among men may account for why 83 percent of the male victims at Central did not report their abuse.

The victims most prominently shown in the media are young women, not unlike the ones surveyed at Central. Typically, women on college campuses or in corporate settings are the stories that receive the most attention. According to the female victims at Central, their abuse happened at school or a location such as a party or in public. Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to report sexual violence statistics, but high schools are not. Due to the lack of statistical information available, compiling specific facts is difficult. Through surveying students at Central, the facts and opinions about sexual violence among Maroons gives a good perspective into how this issue has affected certain demographics.

The majority of Central students, victim or non-victim, do not feel unsafe in the presence of teachers. Though many victims were assaulted in school, they describe Central as an overall safe environment. Highlighting the extremes is not what the study hoped to accomplish.

The media focus on sexual violence, especially after the rise of the #MeToo movement, has dictated what content consumers think of the issue. On one hand there is the idea that many alleged abusers are the real victims and can go on to lead normal lives; becoming a successful actor, Supreme Court Justice, or even the President. The other side believes that survivor’s testimonies should always be heard and criminal prosecution is a valid punishment for abusers.

What side of the aisle a person leans on often directly determines their view on the media and how they should interpret information. With the myriad of allegations and accusations over the past few years, being able to dissect that information and determine what is factual has become an important element of these cases. Central, staying true to its diverse population, was split on how the media handles sexual violence. Roughly half of the students believe the media maintains an accurate representation of sexual violence, while the other thinks the issue is exaggerated.

There did not appear to be any correlation with how victims viewed the media versus non-victims. With the exception of a handful of ‘sometimes’ answers, Central students were certain about their opinions. There are many elements to take into account to form a solid opinion and Central students seem to take one side instead of seeing all aspects.

Through surveying these students, this national problem that can seem so far away hits home. Statistics suddenly have a face to them in the form of peers, friends, and family. Education on polarizing topics such as sexual violence should be a vital component to national curriculums. Hopefully, at Central and across the globe, discussing sexual violence loses its taboo and involves everyone, not just victims.  

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