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The Stigma Surrounding Sexual Assault


Is The #metoo Movement Enough?

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

BACKGROUND: 

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is an act in which a person sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.

Today, getting a notification on your phone that yet another male actor has been accused of sexual assault, is normal. But, there is nothing normal about hundreds of women standing up each day to let the world know they are also victims. Every 98 seconds another person is sexually assaulted, and every 98 seconds something traumatic happens to a person that can spark a mental illness. This is NOT ok. I wanted to become part of this movement that is helping to normalize the conversation in order to put an end to this plague.


THE CHALLENGE:

Time Magazine identified their Person Of the Year as many women and men who have come out in light of this movement. They all share their stories in an effort to inform the public about how common this injustice occurs. While this movement and the work everyone involved is monumental, is it enough? I spoke with Betty Noel about the stigma of sexual assault and its affects on our life.

Ms. Noel is an attorney and a registered nurse with a background in health and health policy. She graduated from Harvard, Yale and John Hopkins. She works for Deputy Title IV Coordinator.

A common misconception associated with sexual assault is that someone is lying when explaining their story. “We as people import a lot of our experiences into our own understand of the traumatic situation. When testifying it may be true that no one is lying and the accused and accuser both have very different stories of the same event. Stories can be fragments of stories and memories are easily altered, so no one needs to be lying if they are mistaken.” These gaps in stories are known as fragmented memories. Another fallacy around sexual assault is that you can and will fight back or say no. “In a stressful situation you could be paralyzed, and being so scared you are subdued and seemingly doing something ‘willingly.’”

In light of the #metoo movement and other sexual assault news in the media, Ms. Noel believes that the alteration of the stigma is moving in both directions. She continued to elaborate by stating that the subject of sexual assault is becoming something people are feeling more comfortable talking about. She believes we need a new culture movement and that some of the news is sensationalism which may or may not be effective for the much needed change. However, social media has begun to conflate the extreme seriousness of sexual assault. Cyber-stalking or verbal harassment is not a rape, while both are iniquitous, they are being given the same attention and they are entirely different issues that need to be addressed separately. “Those who are accused of harassment are being treated in the same aggressive manner of those accused of assault.” Our society has begun to be quick with the condemnation of those accused without considering the Due Process law. We can not condemn a wrongdoer until they are proven that that is what they are.

“Support for those who come forward is extremely important and powerful.” So how can you help to support? Respect the rights of the accused as well as the victim. As an authority figure, asking questions to the accuser to let them decide how to choose their next steps in the process is extremely important. Ms. Noel finds that saying “I believe you” isn’t always the role of the listener, but that you should never tell them they are lying. She also suggests never using the term victim because of the stigma it has and the emotion is might provoke from the accuser. Letting them vocalize their emotions and taking cues from the person you are trying to help is the best way to help them empower themselves.


THE SOLUTION:

We need to empower one another and stand up in the face of what may scare us. Many have aided the movement by making themselves vulnerable by saying they are victims. Admittance is the first step, but we still have yet to deal with the mental health affect this movement may have.


WHAT’S NEXT?

If you are someone who has witnessed or been a victim, there is an online community willing and able to support and listen to you. You are NOT alone. https://metoomvmt.org/

Along with the other upperclassman at my school enrolled in the Abnormal Psych course, I will be hanging posters with local and national organizations numbers and addresses for those who may not want to speak to our school’s consolers, friends or family about what they are going through. Additionally, we will be using an all school assembly to briefly explain each of our projects and how we as a community can help catalyze change locally. For you reading my project, please print out some numbers of local centers or hotlines for those who are affected and may need to call.


SOURCES CITED:

“Me Too.” You Are Not Alone. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2018.

What Is Sexual Assault? Dir. AMAZE Org. YouTube. YouTube, 12 Oct. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2018.

Japaloma. “What Is Beauty.” YouTube. YouTube, 09 Mar. 2018. Web. 22 Apr. 2018.
Scope of the Problem: Statistics | RAINN. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2018.
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COMMENTS: 23
  1. April 29, 2018 by Abigail.Kelley

    Hey Kelli! Great job on your project! I love the videos you chose to explain sexual assault because they were really easy to understand and were relatively short. I learned a lot of new information. This is a great topic and is super relevant right now because of the Me Too movement. You provide a great solution and advice for what to do moving forward. I also think its super interesting that you tied this topic to mental health, and I definitely learned a lot about that aspect of sexual assault.

  2. April 29, 2018 by Anya.Weaver

    I liked your video choices! they were concise and clearly made their respective points. I also think that this topic is really relevant and timely.

  3. April 29, 2018 by Sophie Staeger

    Hi awesome work! The video you attached in your solution is unique and powerful. I wonder if there is another way to solve this problem other than empowering those who are already or possible victims. What preventative action can be taken to stop perpetrators?

    • April 30, 2018 by Alexandria.Rickett

      Great question! I think that by informing everyone, people will be more aware and less likely to put themselves in a situation that could possibly put them in danger or even recognize the signs of a sexual predator. I also think that because of the movement and the normalization of the conversation, people are coming out more and putting those away who are the perpetrators.

  4. April 29, 2018 by Rikako.Kent

    Hi, great job on your project! I like how you incorporated your interview with Ms. Noel within your presentation, who gave really insightful comments about the stigma surrounding sexual assault and the recent MeToo movement. Your “What’s Next” was good in terms of what you will personally be doing within your school but if you had a “What can you do?” section, I think that would also be great for viewers! Good job!

  5. April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

    Hi! I really liked your presentation. You did a great job tackling the important topics of sexual assault, consent, and overall beauty. I think that it is interesting that the idea of bolstering other people and telling them they are beautiful will help them feel more confident to voice their opinions or discuss sexual assault. I have noticed that many of the women that I know that have been raped or sexually assaulted do not tell anybody about it and feel that it is their fault or they are too embarrassed to go to the authorities. I was wondering, do you have any idea why people that have been raped or sexually assaulted in any way feel that the assault is somehow their fault? This is something that I have never understood and it makes me so sad to think that people are blaming themselves for something that was completely beyond their control.

  6. April 29, 2018 by hannah filby

    This is such an important project for people to see for a multitude of reasons. The background at the beginning of your project drew me in even more than I already was with the part about “every 98 seconds”. I think that talking about the MeToo movement and questioning whether or not it is enough to really impact change was super relevant and interesting. Overall you did amazing work and made a very compelling and empowering project. Great job!

  7. April 29, 2018 by Luisa

    Hey. I really liked the resources you provided because they handled the topic very well!

  8. April 29, 2018 by Aidan.Pak

    Hi, This was a really powerful and intense talk, and you did it amazingly! Sexual assault is a very hard topic to tackle, and you did a great job talking about consent.

  9. April 29, 2018 by Luisa

    Hi, I really liked your project! This is an issue that needs more awareness, and the sources and solution you offered are great places to start. Another resource that people could use when dealing with sexual assault is Peace Over VIolence. https://www.peaceoverviolence.org/. Also Wednesday, April 25 was Denim Day. Denim day is where people wear red and denim to stand in solidarity with people who have been assaulted and prevent further assaults. Great project!

    • April 30, 2018 by Alexandria.Rickett

      Hi Luisa! Thank you for adding that additional website and resource! You can never have enough. Denim day was very cool and was a great way to bring awareness. Did you participate in Denim Day?

  10. April 29, 2018 by Kiley.Herlihy

    I really liked this project! The first video was really effective, because not only was it informative, but it talked about a situation that many teens could be experiencing. This topic is extremely important to talk about, but many people don’t know how to start conversations about it because of the stigma surrounding it. By including how to respond if someone opens up about this was a great idea to help conversations continue. Well done!

    • April 30, 2018 by Alexandria.Rickett

      Hi! Thank you for your positive comments! I hope the information on how to be a listener or friend for someone who wants to talk about their experience was helpful for you.

  11. April 30, 2018 by Sydney

    I really enjoyed your project! I thought that the video really helped introduce your topic, and the stats you provided struck me deeply. It’s crazy to think about how often sexual assault happens, and I’m glad you continued the conversation surrounding it. Overall, all the videos you used were very useful, and I thought you did a great job!

  12. April 30, 2018 by Grace

    I really like your topic because you tied something we were learning about in class (getting rid of stigma) to a current issue (the #metoo movement). I especially liked your next steps section where you talked about putting up posters and putting together an assembly to talk about sexual assault, because it’s inspiring to see you’re actually doing something in your community and sharing what you learned with your peers. One thing I wonder is what sort of information do you think would be the most helpful for people to see (on posters and assemblies) to help get rid of the stigma?

  13. April 30, 2018 by Nicole.Sanders

    Hi, I really liked your project! I thought you did a great job discussing such a serious issue, and I thought the information from your interview was really interesting. I also liked how you used a video to introduce your project and wrap it up. They were short videos that were easy to watch, but they also added a lot to your project.

    • April 30, 2018 by Alexandria.Rickett

      Yay! Thank you Nicole! One of my goals was to have an engaging platform that had graphics to engage the readers so I am glad you liked them.

  14. April 30, 2018 by Kelsey.Russell

    Hi Alexandria. Your project was so well done, timely, and necessary to the world we’re living in today. I like how your project didn’t solely focus on women being victims as men can be too. The video you included at the beginning was awesome too.

  15. April 30, 2018 by Nicole Hsing

    Hi Alexandria,

    I really enjoyed viewing your project, and I think your statement about how seeing sexual assault in the news as normal is really eye-opening to a lot of people including me. Whenever we read something in the new that does not directly affect us, we kinda brush it aside or see it as normal because such terrible things always happen in the news. However, I now have realized that that is someone’s life being negatively impacted in such a way they cannot go back to the way it was before. I think your solution of empowerment and standing up for people affected by sexual assault it incredibly vital. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  16. May 01, 2018 by Agnes.von Reis

    I really liked your topic! This is so important right now and you had great ways and ideas on how to fix this issue. When you talked about sexual assault being in the news I thought that was a great way of connecting it to something everyone has probably heard about.

  17. May 01, 2018 by Lauren San Martin

    I really liked your use of videos and your suggestions for promoting change. Sexual assault is a really important topic and its great that you are starting the movement for change.

  18. May 02, 2018 by McKenzie Minto

    This is a beautiful, empowering project. Both videos were really informative. You’re right that admittance and speaking up are the first steps. If so many cases of sexual assault didn’t remain in the shadows, perpetrators would be less likely to commit the crimes. The issue is that too many people get away with it, so I’m glad you’re project is about breaking the stigma behind it!

  19. May 03, 2018 by Natalie

    Super interesting presentation! I really enjoyed how you pinpointed a specific issue that is important right now and came to your own conclusions and solutions about it. I think the use of videos at the beginning and end really tied your presentation together and made it very cohesive. I definitely learned a lot about a topic that I feel is often underreported, as we constantly hear about how good #MeToo is but never the negatives.

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