Editorial: A ‘watershed moment’ for sexual assault, but for campus?

On Oct. 5, the New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published an article revealing that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has a near 30-year history of sexual harassment reports, including at least eight legal settlements with women. In the two weeks since the Times exposé and an additional piece published by The New Yorker, nearly 40 women have come forward with accounts of sexual harassment against the media mogul. These accusations range from A-list celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow to young, female employees of Weinstein’s production companies, The Weinstein Company and Miramax.

Following Weinstein’s scandal, a #MeToo movement took over social media, empowering victims of sexual violence and sexual assault to have the courage to share their stories. Former FOX News Network host Gretchen Carlson, who filed her own sexual harassment case against FOX News CEO Roger Alias last year, told USA Today, “What we’re seeing happening now with the Harvey Weinstein revelations is the watershed moment… People are finally saying ‘enough.’”

The Bucknellian would like to evaluate Carlson’s claims both in the context of the Weinstein scandal and in relation to our own campus climate. Is it fair to make the claim that Weinstein’s scandal has had the impact of such a watershed moment? Has (or will) this moment translate back to campus?

It is frustrating that something major and scandalous has to happen to a famous person for people to realize that sexual assault happens to so many other individuals every day, including individuals at the University. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. 1 in 16 men are also sexually assaulted while in college. More alarming than these statistics themselves is that so many people are too afraid to open up about their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault for fear of judgement, backlash, or victim blaming. In a livestream “Get With the Times” event co-sponsored by The Bucknellian on Oct. 15, comedian Trevor Noah related the Weinstein scandal back to this concept of victim blaming.

We do think that there has been an increase in awareness about sexual assault on our campus. Coincidentally, the Weinstein scandal blew up during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which marks a time on campus in which numerous student groups hold events and fundraisers for empowering advocates and ending sexual assault. This week, we covered the 2nd annual SToPP 5K, a walk/run sponsored by the New Agenda Foundation which specifically aims to combat sexual violence on college campuses. In our Oct. 6 issue, we also highlighted Speak UP’s Clothesline Project, a campus display part of No More month.

Yet, we still question whether the prevalence of campus awareness does in fact coincide with an increased awareness and a decreased stigma surrounding sexual assault on a national scale. There does appear to be a more open dialogue in the national media when it comes to speaking out about sexual assault, originating with the Bill Cosby scandal in 2014. However, it might be the case that the media has become more of an outing platform of sexual assault, and simply makes it easier for more people to transmit their message to a larger, sympathetic audience.

In a way, the Weinstein scandal may encourage more people to speak out and begin to destigmatize sexual abuse; we can only expect that more people will call out actions of sexual abuse once they are destigmatized. For such a destigmatization to be effective, however, we must be careful to recognize that many of the claims made by various celebrities benefit from the power these figures hold in the media.

Actress Molly Ringwald penned an op-ed in The New Yorker, in which she explained that for Hollywood to enact real change, change needs to allow women of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities to access the same opportunities that Hollywood elites have had in sharing their stories. In the same way we need to move away from victim-blaming then, we also need to move away from assuming that the voices of victims of sexual assault who choose to come forward are always heard equally.

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