The Sharks Among Us: The Harsh Reality of Sexual Assault That America Has Ignored
There is a one in 3.75 million chance of getting attacked by a shark.1Ljubica Cvetkovska and Caro Pastor, “Shark Attack Statistics: Why, When, and Where They Attack,” Petpedia, January 6, 2023, https://petpedia.co/shark-attack-statistics/. It is so highly unlikely that you should never even have a second thought about going swimming in the ocean. One in 3.75 million. Yet, as a society, we label fear of sharks as completely rational and acceptable. We don’t shun or ostracize those paranoid beachgoers, and we certainly don’t belittle them while screaming “not all sharks.”
One in six women in america are victims of rape.2“Statistics about Sexual Violence,” National Sexual Violence Resource Center, accessed May 15, 2023, https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf. One in six. But when a woman crosses to the other side of a street to avoid being too close to a potentially dangerous man, or has to stay on the phone with her friend while taking an uber home to feel safer, or attends a “Me Too” movement protest, she is called anti-man, reverse-sexist, and radical.
One in six women live with the initial injuries and potentially lifelong physical effects of rape. One in six women suffer from the severe physiological consequences of being assaulted: depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, DID, flashbacks, BPD, panic attacks.3“Statistics about Sexual Violence,” National Sexual Violence Resource Center, accessed May 15, 2023, https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf. One in six women are constantly scared that it will happen again. They are asked “what were you wearing?”, “how much did you drink?”, “why were you alone so late?”, “are you sure it actually happened?”, “are you sure you didn’t want it?”, “are you sure you want to ruin that young man’s life by coming forward?” And then we call them anti-man.
“Not all men” we say! Yet it’s enough men for 97% of women ages 18 to 24 to report being harassed in a public space.4Rachel Thompson, “97% of Young Women Have Been Sexually Harassed, Study Finds,” Mashable, October 29, 2021, https://mashable.com/article/sexual-harassment-un-women-uk. Its enough men where 99% of perpetrators of sexual violence against anyone, regardless of the victim’s gender, are lo and behold, still men.5“Statistics about Sexual Violence,” National Sexual Violence Resource Center, accessed May 15, 2023, https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf. Its enough men where 25% of male college students commit some type of sexual coercion.6“Trajectories of Male Sexual Aggression,” Wiley Online Library, accessed May 15, 2023, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ab.21584.
If 25% percent of commercial planes crashed, would you still take the flight? If your doctor had killed 25% of his patients, would you still let them perform surgery on you? If you had a 25% chance of winning the lottery, wouldn’t you play every day? If every time you rode your bike, there was a 25% chance that you would get hit by a car, would you keep on riding it?
But the reality is, a tenth of a percent of commercial planes crash, 1% of surgeries result in death, the chance of winning the powerball is a millionth of a percent, and a car will hit a bike rider .001% of the time.7Isabel Sepulveda, “Odds of 50 Random Events Happening to You,” Stacker, March 29, 2023, https://stacker.com/art-culture/odds-50-random-events-happening-you.
And yet somehow, in some way, when 25% of male college students are committing some form of sexual violence, we turn our heads, and once again say “not all men.”
When the statistics are this staggering, it is apparent that there is an issue, one that is much more common that we would like to admit. Until we can finally recognize this problem without being called radical feminists, nothing will change.
We must create a culture that supports survivors and helps them heal. We must chance the fact that uninsured survivors of sexual violence are charged on average almost $4000 dollars for visiting the emergency room. We must stop teaching our girls to stay silent and avoid attention, and start teaching our boys how to have basic respect and common human decency. We must shift the guilt away from survivors, and start holding perpetrators accountable. We must work to dismantle the systemic barriers that prevent survivors from finding justice, such as inadequate funding for sexual assault prevention and response programs.
And until your fear of swimming at the beach starts getting called irrational, our fear of men cannot be called unjustified.
Cover Image: Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash