What’s needed to end sexual violence in one generation?

by Julie Patrick, National Partners Liaison at Raliance for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Raliance envisions a world where sexual violence no longer exists and equality and respect thrive. This may seem aspirational. And yet the profound legacy of the #MeToo campaign may very well be to shine a bright light on sexual violence and propel us towards this vision. Sexual violence must no longer be allowed to persist in the shadows where silence has perpetuated harm for far too long.

The old adage holds true - what gets measured gets done.

As we look back at 2017 and beyond, we are witnessing profound changes in our culture toward this vision. One measurement is to document the key trends and themes to benchmark what is in motion. Raliance’s inaugural 2016 report and now the 2017 report reflect on this moment in our shared history.

Social media and hashtag activism have created a powerful forum, one that survivors of sexual violence have used to find agency and voice. Their courage has enabled this conversation and held many accountable. We’ve seen this shift. News coverage of Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O'Reilly led us to Harvey Weinstein and beyond. We can trace this further back to Anita Hill’s powerful testimony in 1991. The trajectory of this momentum sets us clearly in a pivotal time for social change.

To end sexual violence, we must also have community courage.

Too often organizations, institutions, and even families want to keep their heads in the sand as if working proactively to address sexual violence is an admission of failure or of a shameful secret.

To this, we say: Be bold in 2018.

The #MeToo campaign illustrates that sexual violence is a pervasive social issue. Our society has faced many social issues and taken a stern look at behaviors and practices that do not serve the social good. We learned about the impact of smoking and secondhand smoke and made profound changes holding the tobacco industry accountable for false advertising. We have fought and advanced equality and respect in our history in the desegregation of schools, in advancing marriage equality, and in continuing to work towards gender pay equality. And we have had to hold those who caused social harm accountable. With knowledge and accountability came social change. Yes, it’s an on-going process, but it’s worth it to be able to have a society that values all its members. 

It requires investment of resources and a commitment to change to build safer, healthier environments.

College campuses, corporations, the military, and beyond have already started to look at the way they address and prevent sexual violence. Some have done this because it’s the right thing to do; others in response to public outrage. Whatever reason brings them to the table, there is space for all of us to be a part of the solution. We cannot shame, fire, or prosecute our way out of sexual violence. It’s time to change beliefs and behaviors as well as policies and practices.

We each have a role to play.

It’s time to speak up! Stand up for survivors. Shut down victim blaming. Hold those who harm accountable. Do not be silent. 

What’s your commitment in 2018? Learn more about ours at www.raliance.org