National reporting culture of sexual assault stands to be drastically changed
Allegations of sexual misconduct recently began pouring out of Hollywood in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment against film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Since October, when the claims were first made, dozens of other prominent figures in the entertainment sector, like Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey, have been called out on inappropriate behavior towards men and women alike.
This sudden outburst of accusations represents a change in thinking among victims of sexual harassment and assault. Instead of keeping it to themselves and fearing repercussions, these men and women have seen the examples set by others and realized that it is within their power to hold their abusers accountable.
This shift in thinking is a positive one that will work towards dispelling the notion of “victim-blaming” that has, for so long, kept victims quiet. However, this brings up a new question: when there is no evidence one way or the other, whose side do we take?
Roy Moore is currently the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat. He was also recently accused by five women of sexual misconduct. This allegedly occurred in the late 1970’s, when Moore was in his thirties and the women accusing him were in their mid-to-late teens.
At this point in time, the issue is more a matter of “he said, she said,” since the stories are nearly 40 years old. So far, most of the investigation has consisted of interviewing friends and family of Moore and the women involved and attempting to match the timelines they give with official court documents. In the 1970’s, however, victims were not encouraged to report instances as they are today, so no solid evidence was collected at the time.
If there were enough evidence to convict or acquit Moore, we would side with the court’s decision. In this case, however, the Student Voice stands by the victims. Alabama statute of limitations on cases of child molestation is two years, so legal action cannot be brought against Moore, but he should be required to step down from the race for U.S. Senate in light of the accusations. To do otherwise would send a signal to other victims of sexual misconduct that they have no power to hold their abusers responsible.
To prevent such a case from reoccurring, we believe that reporting culture needs to drastically change. Victims should be highly encouraged and given every opportunity to report instances of sexual misconduct and harassment, and authorities should jump on these reports as quickly as they come in so that evidence can be collected and more accurate versions of the story nailed down early on.
UW-River Falls is doing relatively well offering victims options to turn to. Reported instances, according to the UWRF Sexual Assault and Harassment, Resources and Services page, are kept confidential. Reports can be sent to university or city police or a sexual assault response team. The Division of Student Affairs will then be able to discuss options with the victim and seek further investigation or disciplinary actions. There is also an extensive support network available through organizations like Turningpoint, a service set up for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Services like this and outreach events like Week of Action need to maintain their presence on campus, as the issue does not go away after you initially address it. Extensive support and resources need to be constantly available to change how sexual assault victims are viewed in our country.