Weinstein’s conviction fuels our fire

Sex offender Harvey Weinstein’s prison sentence represents all that needs to change regarding sexual abuse.

Evelyn Driscoll, News Editor

When victims of sexual assault do not speak up they cannot receive mental and physical help.

Miriam Haley, Jessica Mann and Rose McGowen. You might recognize these women’s stories better with the mention of the name Harvey Weinstein. These are just a couple women who’ve presented sexual abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein (New York Times). Recently, Judge James Burke finally sentenced Weinstein to 23 years in prison, after the numerous allegations against him. This conviction serves as a beacon for women drowned by the silencing power of sexual assault. However it must also be a wake up call, as this sentence is long overdue.

Weinstein has been regularly accused of sexual abuse, ranging from rape to sexual assault, since the early 1980s (BBC). The BBC article “The Harvey Weinstein scandal: Who has accused him of what?” discussesĀ  the 40 women in the past 40 years that have made allegations against Weinstein.

As high school students, we hear about sexual abuse, but rarely recognize the reality of it. A couple days ago I wanted to go for a walk outside but was told I shouldn’t because of a man raping young girls in a nearby city. A year ago, I took an intense self defense class so I could be ready if anything happened, and it taught me that there are people who don’t see me as a person. I’ve always been

taught never to walk alone and always be aware. The threat of sexual violence is even worse for those less privileged than me .

When I heard of Weinstein’s conviction, I was confused why it took 40 years to happen. Yes, the conviction of Weinstein is a powerful moment for the Me Too movement. But, it’s also an embarrassment to our society because it has taken too long. We have to take the necessary steps to prevent instances like this from occurring again.

When we hear about sexual assault, we often don’t think of it happening right next to us. However, according to RAINN, women between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault.

One-third of women who’ve been sexually assaulted did nothing in response (Girl Scouts). There are a lot of examples in society that persuade young girls not to speak up. Watching trials like Brett Kavanaugh’s destroy Dr. Ford’s reputation rather than empower her teaches girls that they won’t be heard. We need to encourage girls to speak up despite the stigma by listening when they do.

Along with decreasing stigma, we need to unpack the lies about sexual abuse. A lot of the education around sexual assault at school is about older offenders, making it difficult to realize those our age may commit assault. One in ten adolescents who’ve been in romantic relationships reported that their partner either kissed, touched, or forced them into sexual contact (Girl Scouts).

These statistics aren’t meant to scare us; they’re meant to push us. We need to let Weinstein’s conviction fuel the fire inside us so that we can teach girls and boys to speak up. Ultimately, we need to educate about the wrongs of sexual assault in order to prevent further instances. We also need to get girls the help they need by listening to them, empowering them, and encouraging them to speak up. Students should tell a trusted adult, either within their family or on campus, if they’ve experienced this so they can receive the proper care.

A couple years ago, an anonymous student told me she was sexually pressured at a party. I asked her why she didn’t speak up or say anything. She told me it was because she didn’t want to ruin her offender’s reputation. This is the lie we tell women: that speaking up is cowardice and only hurts those around us.

Miriam Haley, Jessica Mann, and Rose McGowen. When I hear about Harvey Weinstein, these are the names I want to think of. Names of brave women who spoke up. Although we hope Weinstein’s sexual assault and rape crimes will end through his jail sentence, we know that the numerous women struck by his crimes experience pain that might never cease. It is for this reason that we must keep speaking up and educating about sexual abuse.