Sex-related crimes can be very uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s a conversation we all need to have–men and women.
ETSU has its own consent/sexual harassment education program that every student is required to participate and pass, and while it’s a good thing that they have it, it could be much better.
There are many assumptions about sexual harassment commonly held by most people that are not always –– or even usually –– correct. For instance, the belief that sexual predators are weird strangers in black hoodies and sunglasses hanging out in an ally, when in fact, most victims of sexual harassment/assault know the person before the crime. That means sexual predators are relatives, friends or acquaintances met in a night.
These educational videos often skim over the threat of people you may think you know best. That is a very dangerous omission of the truth. All of us need to know to be mindful at all times, towards strangers and towards people we call friends. No matter how well you may think you know someone, that doesn’t mean that they are immune to crime, nor should they be immune to punishment because you are or were close to this person. That is the truth that these videos need to express.
Another issue is a lack of positive male representation. Men are always pegged as being more likely to sexually abuse or harass, and that’s a statistic that may never change. Men, however, should be doing what they can to fight that stereotype. Few men have stood up and openly spoken out against sexual harassment/assault, largely because so few men are directly affected by it, largely because it’s their friends who do it too.
The fact of the matter is that men are sexually abused and harassed too, even if these instances may be lower in statistics compared to what women face. In the same regard, women should make sure they don’t fall victim to the same predatory behavior, because it is absolutely possible.
Not every person can understand what it feels like to be sexually harassed/assaulted, but that doesn’t make these crimes any more acceptable. There are stigmas about crimes related to sex, and it is vital that institutions like ETSU do what they can to educate people about the misconceptions related to these commonly held beliefs.