Column: Standing with sexual assault survivors means standing up for diversity and inclusivity

Diversity and inclusivity make for more representative anti-sexual assault movements.

Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.

When someone is at their most vulnerable they need support. It’s as simple as that. The simple sentiment of “me too” and “why I didn’t report” is a show of support. It has built a network that allows individuals to feel safe in coming forward about their own sexual assault.

In a world where rape culture and toxic masculinity thrive on each other, it can be difficult for society to break through the generalization of rape victims. The benefit of the #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport movements is that they do not play into the generalizations.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, and no one has the right to dictate who belongs in each major movement.

Most people would never think of a former NFL athlete as the kind of person to use the #MeToo movement, but Terry Crews didn’t let that stop him from coming forward with his experience with sexual assault. It was the Harvey Weinstein scandal that caused him to come forward. He explained how the scandal brought back memories of his experience, according to The Guardian.

One out of three women experienced some form of contact sexual violence, according to a 2010-2012 CDC study. While men experience this at half the rate (one out of six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence) the issue is still very much hurting many gender identities. Beyond cisgender identities, 47 percent of transgender respondents had experienced some form of sexual assault, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Sexual assault is a tragedy happening to more than just cisgender women.

Gender isn’t the only generalization about rape that we have. Race plays a major role in the rates of sexual assault. Native American women are twice as likely to experience sexual assault than the national average, according to the New York Times.

Women of color are often left out of the narrative of rape even though that very community started the #MeToo movement. Mixed raced women account for 24.4 percent of women assaulted, and African-American women account for 18.8 percent of women assaulted according to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. They have started movements and shared the same experience, and it’s time for their stories to be heard.

Ignoring these minority groups prevents the objectives of these movements.

Other communities are also excluded from the narrative.

Rates of sexual violence were higher for bisexual men and women than for straight men and women, according to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. The rates were also higher for lesbian women and gay men.

In addition, a major problem that the queer and gender non-conforming community has encountered is the issue of “corrective rape.”

As an extreme form of conversion therapy, corrective rape is the sexual assault of a gender and/or sexual minority for the purpose of showing them that their identity is wrong. As if that sexual encounter would convince someone that they were not asexual, pansexual, transgender or genderfluid. Sexual assault has become a tool that people use to gain power over others.

Individuals with disabilities are also more likely to experience sexual assault, according to NPR. Disabled individuals are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted that those without a disability. Finding support within the #MeToo movement could help find justice for these minority groups.

With the recent Supreme Court nomination hearing of Brett Kavanaugh bringing sexual assault back into the spotlight, it can be easy to forget why these movements need to be inclusive.

If the movements fail to include everyone harmed by rape culture, then they will fail to create some form of change.

The reason that the #MeToo and #WhyIDidn’tReport movements are so amazing is that they naturally include everyone. This makes them especially powerful because now they are able to assist those outside the generalizations of a rape victim. This isn’t just an issue for cisgender, straight and white able-bodied women (although they are still a part of the discussion). This is an issue for everyone.

Alienating those who relate to these experiences just because they may be different only cultivates a society of silence. When people within these movements ignore intersectional individuals or those who fail to comply with the typical narrative, they only serve to hurt those suffering from the same experiences.

A movement is only as strong as its people. Diversity helps to strengthen these groups. When someone is at their most vulnerable, sometimes all they need is to know that they have support, even if it’s as simple as saying “me too.”

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