North Texas Daily

The first Sexual Assault Awareness Month without Obama

The first Sexual Assault Awareness Month without Obama

The first Sexual Assault Awareness Month without Obama
April 06
10:00 2017

The Editorial Board

In 2009, Barack Obama became the first president to officially declare April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, despite activist efforts since the late ‘70s to have the month be recognized as such. From that point on, Obama proclaimed the month annually to prioritize sexual assault prevention in schools and workplaces. Now, President Donald Trump is continuing the tradition this month.

“My Administration, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, will do everything in its power to protect women, children and men from sexual violence,” Trump said in his official statement on March 31.

Considering how Trump was caught bragging about grabbing women “by the p—y” in a 2005 video, outrage against him and the irony of his declaration has flooded the internet for the past few days. Another point of contention has been the over 15 sexual assault allegations against him, which date back to the early ‘80s.

If anything is positive about these criticisms, it’s that public awareness of sexual assault has greatly improved from where it was in Obama’s inaugural year. While the unearthing of Trump’s past is certainly a cause for that awareness, a combination of court cases, reports and other public fiascoes has made the subject much less taboo to bring up.

One of the most controversial instances of sexual abuse was the incident behind the People v. Turner case of 2016, also known as the “Stanford rape case.” Filed by the Santa Clara County Superior Court in California, the case centered on Brock Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer who raped a drunk, unconscious woman on Jan. 18, 2015.

Ten days later, Turner was indicted on “two counts of rape, two counts of penetration and one count of assault with intent to rape,” pleading not guilty from the start. On Oct. 7, 2015, Judge Aaron Persky dropped the rape charges while ordering Turner to stand trial for the remaining three.

In a written statement to Persky in May 2016, Turner blamed his actions on alcohol and partying, arguing that while intoxicated, “[he] just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could [the woman].” That June, Persky sentenced Turner to a measly six months in jail, followed by three years of probation. Citing Turner’s age and lack of criminal history as incentives – according to The Guardian –  Persky said a longer sentence would’ve had “a severe impact on him” and that “he will not be a danger to others.”

The victim, calling herself “Emily Doe,” wrote a powerful letter to BuzzFeed about the “severe impact” of Turner’s rape and how sexual assault survivors will never be silenced. According to Glamour Magazine, who named “Doe” a woman of 2016, her letter has circulated over 11 million times and will influence rape cases for years to come.

Another site with its own rape history is Baylor University, with 17 women alleging last year that they were sexually assaulted by 19 student athletes since 2011. The women’s lawsuit towards the university led to the firing of Art Briles as football coach and the resignation of Kenneth Starr as chancellor. Starr even admitted to ESPN that his immediate resignation occurred “as a matter of conscience.”

Just when matters couldn’t get worse for Baylor, a graduate sued the university on Jan. 27. In the lawsuit, she alleges that 31 football players committed at least 52 rape acts from 2011 to 2014 – including five gang rapes.

Although Baylor claims “integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment” is its key to success, the culture under Briles was anything but celibate. According to The Dallas Morning News, Briles’ tenure allegedly implemented a “show ‘em a good time” policy where underage recruits vacated strip clubs and participated in prearranged intercourse.

Even though these recent allegations haven’t been proven, actions of yesteryear taken by university regents point to a school salvaging the little respect it still has. The Baylor rape scandal succeeded in bringing more attention to university politics, especially to how colleges handled their sexual assault policies.

Still, more work must be done in this era of a misogynistic president. Data published by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network estimates that an American sexual assault happens “every 98 seconds” – with “only six out of every thousand perpetrators” going to prison for those crimes. Not to mention that a 2013 analysis from the World Health Organization found that 30 percent of all women have experienced sexual violence worldwide, which is almost a third of the planet.

Fortunately, this generation is more privy than ever to immoral dilemmas, and we’re quick to call out any hypocrisy when a perpetrator isn’t held accountable. With public opinion progressively swaying in victims’ favors, it is imperative that we honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the rights of victims everywhere.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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