The #MeToo phenomenon is unfolding all around us.
Every day there is a new celebrity or politician being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. And those are the only ones that we hear about. As a woman, I’m thrilled that this conversation is moving past the arena of therapist’s offices, and onto the world stage.
As a Sexologist, I have so many questions. Why is it happening now? Is it going to end with a fairer world for women? Have views about sexual assault changed over generations?
Anthropologist and sexologist Dr. Leanna Wolfe has been studying people’s views on sexual assault and is currently gathering information on her study called What Is Sexual Assault? I urge everyone to take it now, and help her research become broader and more accurate.
How would you rate the statement, “Is it possible for a man to be raped by a woman?” True or false? What about, “An unwanted pat on the back is sexual assault?” What one person considers assault might be another’s definition of “old school charm.”
One woman’s definition of flattery or mild flirtation may be another woman’s idea of inappropriate harassment. There is so much grey area in the arena of sexual assault, that I find myself craving research like Dr. Wolfe’s to make sense of all the nuance, subtleties and not-so-subtleties.
I find it fascinating, for example, that survey participants across the board seem to have a pretty good handle on the definitions of ‘No means No’ and ‘Yes means Yes,’ but when it comes to things like whether vindictive women can ruin a man’s life with rape accusations or whether men are more insensitive about inappropriate touch than any other time in history, millennials and baby boomer generations are miles apart.
So, what is happening in society? Studies like this can help us discover more about ourselves.
If we’re going to heal from the onslaught of sexual trauma, knowledge will be the key to our power. And learning about the history of sexual assault is important, so that we can understand how the society we live in has evolved.
Dr. Wolfe presented her research on Sexual Assault: A culture in turmoil… at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexology, that begins with sexual assault in the Amazon, where Yanomami women would be raped if they attempted to run away from their home.
Her research covers heinous crimes in India, where women have been gang raped and murdered by men and family members.
But sexual assault didn’t become part of the national conversation in the United States until the fall of 2016 when President Donald Trump is shown in a 2005 news clip bragging about groping attractive women. Brock Turner, a Stanford student and athlete was given a short jail sentence for raping an intoxicated unconscious woman at a frat party in January 2015.
I wonder if now, even just two years later, views would be different at that trial, where the victim’s statement went viral as Turner’s father referred to the rape as “20 minutes of action.” Turner served just three months in jail. A few months after that, the popularity of a documentary film, The Hunting Ground reignited the debate over campus rape.
The fact is that since 1987, six national studies – including one released in early 2016 by the Department of Justice show that as many as one in four women are sexually assaulted at college.
These sad statistics bring us to the current “Me Too” movement where a light has been shone on the sheer numbers of women (and men) who have been sexually harassed or assaulted in their lifetimes.
Unwanted sexual behavior is rampant, and now that it’s finally in the spotlight, let’s move the discussion forward to solutions.
And the first step is to really dig in to documenting the thoughts and beliefs we hold about men, women, sexuality, and what it means to be assaulted.
Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WhatisSexualAssault