Sexual assault and harassment are not new issues. Since the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, more victims are coming forward. This has caused the media to highlight these issues in a way that has never happened before. Men and women’s voices are being heard, and more people are sharing their stories.
I wanted to hear about how these revelations have affected young women at Seattle Academy. This piece features the raw opinions of ten different young women. Below are their insights paired with photos that reflect the vulnerability of those who speak up.
Ella Meyer '18: The recent increase in news coverage of sexual assault has brought up a level of conflict for me. On one end, I feel a little safer knowing that some of the voices of sexual assault survivors are finally being heard. I'm excited that, as my mom keeps saying over and over again, "the tide is finally turning." However, the recent cases of sexual assault involving such well-known and admired figures has also reinforced my fear that the victims, as well as the predators, could be anyone. I'm scared of how long it took some of these survivors to have their stories addressed, and how many cases still may never see the light of day. I hope that by the time it is my turn to enter the workforce, I can be confident that my voice will be heard and actions will be taken if ever such events happen to me.
Madison van der Veen '18: I have two younger cousins and I think this is an interesting time for them to grow up because they've seen all these reactions from the media. They are really taught to be strong and independent from a young age. Of course, I worry for them getting older because it’s not an issue that I think will be resolved quickly, but just knowing that they are being educated about these things makes me feel better. Advice I would give them is just to be vocal and stay true to themselves. If something doesn't feel right say something about it, because it’s not something to be shameful about.
Jillian Pendergast '18: With everything going on about women being sexually assaulted, it has affected how I️ see things. I see the way men treat my friends and me, and now I am more aware of my surroundings and the situations that I am in with men. Nowadays, I feel less safe when I’m walking by myself down the street.
Olivia Harkins-Finn '19: The sudden release of sexual harassment stories has been a hard but meaningful occurrence. I never realized how common sexual assault is, but now there’s no way of ignoring these events. Although women may relate more and sympathize more with the victims, this era of sexual assault all over the media and news has a large effect on men as well. Males of all ages may grow to understand the trauma sexual assault leaves on females. Reading new interviews with victims every day, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram to see hundreds of #metoo posts, and knowing that everyday hundreds of women are objectified and hurt through sexual assault does not make me happy, but it gives me hope that our society will change.
Sydney Kaplan '18: The recent increase in publicity for sexual assault victims has changed the light upon which I view the issue. Before Trump took office, I understood the implications sexual assault had on one’s life, but I did not fully realize the meaning. Like any social issue, once one person is brave enough to express their concern, people quickly follow. While it is empowering to know that people sharing their personal stories can raise awareness, it is also disheartening in two ways. First, seeing such a profound abundance of sexual assault survivors shows that our society is in dire need of a reality check. Second, to see press and public figures dismiss not only the feelings of the survivors, but also the importance of their stories, is disgusting and discouraging. Why, if so many people understand the horror of sexual assault, does it repeatedly occur? Why is it that powerful figures continue to partake in sexual assault when it is so shameful? These questions cannot be fully answered, but it is inauspicious to see so many people bravely speaking out, only to be somewhat dismissed.
Rusha Bartlett '19: I know sexual misconduct and assault have been happening since the beginning of our society and I know they’re not going to stop anytime soon, so I’m not surprised by the sudden media presence. It’s not anything new; it’s just that no one in power has been listening until now. But I do feel empowered by the women who feel strong enough to come forward, and by the ones who live with this trauma every day who don’t feel strong enough to come forward. Every survivor knows it’s a hard thing to talk about, and simply living your life every day despite being victim to a total violation of your body and being is a feat in itself. The important thing is that the mass number of allegations right now are bringing up serious discussions about sexual assault in classrooms, at dinner tables, and in the White House. With enough of these discussions, maybe someday the way we teach our sons and brothers and fathers to act towards women will change for the better.
Molly Sanderson '18: Media coverage of sexual assault, harassment, and rape has sparked mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, I am happy that more women feel they can tell their stories and that the media exposure has resulted in more consequences for attackers. As more women come out with information, companies seem to realize that from a PR perspective they need to create serious consequences for the offenders. This keeps women safer and discourages others from acting inappropriately. On the other hand, it is disappointing and demoralizing to be reminded of how difficult it can be to be a female professional. No matter how successful a woman becomes, it seems they rarely gain the respect they deserve. Beyond that, as a woman who hopes to enter politics, I am concerned at how physically unsafe that environment might be, particularly when I am just starting out. I also worry that these stories may discourage qualified women from entering the field as it does not appear to be very female-friendly. The only way to make politics better for women is to get more women involved, so I hope this fear does not discourage women from doing so.
Esme DeCoster ‘18: I sadly have had many members of my family who have suffered varying degrees of sexual assault. My experiences with their stories have been brief and generally not wildly shared among family members. My hope is that the hushed tone with which we discuss matters of trauma in the coming generations is affected by the shift in tone our nation is experiencing. With the positive support we’ve seen in recent media, I truly am crossing my fingers that more young women will feel comfortable coming forward immediately and calling out men as they deserve to be. I am often a pessimist about the reality of social change. This fight is far from over and the sharing of these stories is crucial. I truly hope though that all of us women will be able to keep the momentum and carry this movement forward.
Sophia Trombold ‘18: I think that the sudden and well-deserved media attention on sexual harassment in the workplace is a good thing, and has already resulted in the rightful firings of men who have spent years profiting from their harassment of women, or simply getting away with it. I think that so many women coming forward at once about sexual harassment in the workplace will encourage women to come forward in the future about any form of sexual harassment, whether or not it in the workplace. I hope that the media attention will create and enforce a new norm where no one can get away with sexual harassment, although that is a long-term goal.
Natalie White '18: I’m glad my sister is growing up in an environment of open discussion. She knows her worth, and isn’t afraid to speak up. If I could give her one piece of advice, it would be to take care of herself and others. If I could shield my sister from all of the atrocities in this world, I would. Because I can't, I’m glad she is growing up in an environment of open discussion. She knows her worth, and isn’t afraid to speak up. I won't be around to look out for her much longer, so if I could give her one piece of advice, it would be to take care of herself and allow others to take care of her. Sometimes people forget that it takes strength to admit when you need help.