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The Silence Breakers

“I speak not for myself, but for those without voice…those who have fought for their rights…their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated” (Malala Yousafzai). For decades, men and women across the globe have been needlessly silent on the topic of sexual assault and harassment. That is until recently; a hashtag has gone viral on twitter causing many to finally speak up about their stories of sexual assault and harassment.

The #metoo movement began on twitter with Tarana Burke, a social activist, and was popularized by Alyssa Milano, a Hollywood actress, who encouraged others to use the hashtag to share their stories of sexual assault. Since then, millions of people from all across the globe have used the hashtag. Many celebrities have even come out against their colleagues, which has caused a major stir in Hollywood.

The New York Times published a story on October 5 detailing decades of accusations against Harvey Weinstein which alleged sexual assault and harassment. Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd are just two of the women who have come forward. This revelation caused an avalanche of new and astounding accusations to come forward towards many powerful Hollywood personnel. Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Bryan Singer, Melanie Martinez, Charlie Rose, and so many more have now been accused of sexual assault or harassment. However, it isn’t just Hollywood that has major issues with sexual assault and harassment.

Research estimates anywhere from approximately 0.35% to 10% to 29% of women have been victims of rape or attempted rape since starting college. A survey conducted by Rutgers University found that 12% of men and women had experienced some form of sexual assault, while at the University of Michigan, 22% of female students said they had been assaulted in the last year. This kind of disgusting behavior has to stop, but it seems like nothing is being done to prevent or punish those who choose to assault others.

At Stanford University, in 2015, Brock Turner, a student and swimmer, decided to sexually assault an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a party. Two passerby saw Turner assault the young woman and detained him until the police arrived. Brock Turner was sentenced to eight months in prison, but was released after three months with just two years of probation. The ruling of the judge has sparked major controversy, and the citizens of his district are now trying to remove him from the bench. This young woman’s life was forever changed  due to Turner’s actions, but he may never pay for the crime that he committed due to one biased judges opinion. There are many high profile congressmen and activists pushing for change, but how can any real change get passed when many of our congressmen are themselves guilty of these things?

Trent Franks, Al Franken, Donald Trump, Blake Farenthold, Ruben Kihuen, and John Conyers Jr. are all representatives in congress that have been accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Many have announced that they will be stepping down, but with candidates like Roy Moore in the running, will we ever be free from a sexist and misogynistic government? It seems like wherever you go in this country or even this world, you will find these terrible crimes occuring. It’s terribly sad that it has taken us this long to not only acknowledge those that have been hurt, but encourage them to come forward. I truly hope that one day men and women won’t fear what would happen if they spoke out against injustice or inequality. As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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