We can’t stop what we can’t talk about

I’ve been saying this for the past year. We can’t stop what we can’t talk about.

I was delighted to see intelligent portrayals of sexual assault and its impacts being front and center in this year’s Academy Awards.

First -- Spotlight.

This is a powerful movie for a couple reasons. It highlights the importance of independent journalism. It illustrates, in a clear and understandable way, how silence about sexual assault allows it to continue and how “good people” can look the other way, not recognize sexual assault for what it is. Reporter Walter Robinson (played by Michael Keaton), has his own epiphany when he recognizes he too knew about allegations of priests abusing children but chose to bury the story.

The children victimized in the Boston Archdiocese sexual abuse cases were poor and on the economic edges of the community. That made them more vulnerable and at the same time less likely to be believed had they come forward. When we refuse to consider that some individuals can’t be offenders, or when certain types of people are not to be believed as victims, we won’t be able to see when assault occurs.

That’s why it’s so important to have accurate information about what assault looks like, how it happens, who the victims are and who assaults them. I applaud the Seattle Archdiocese’s recent decision to list the names of all the priests and clergy against whom creditable allegations were made. By making this public statement, the Diocese put a name to those individuals. In this way they held individuals accountable for their behavior and recognized those people who were harmed.

Second -- Victims of campus rape, Vice President Joe Biden, and Lady Gaga.

As more people share their experience of sexual assault the harder it is to ignore; the harder it to excuse or explain away. The women who were campus sexual assault survivors, and recognized by Lady Gaga at the Oscars, provide us with a stark reminder of what sexual assault and its victims look like. And that is to say, it is our sister, brother, neighbor, friend; it is anyone. Vice President Biden speaking about the White House Campaign on campus sexual assault, It’s On Us (http://itsonus.org/), provides an example of changing the conversation. By defining campus sexual assault as just that -- sexual assault or rape, and not excusing it away -- we begin to put the responsibility where it belongs. It belongs on the offender, and not on the victim.

Third -- The KCSARC BE LOUD Breakfast.

Not Oscar winning , but just as important, the KCSARC 2016 BE LOUD BREAKFAST. When almost 1,000 people in the Sheraton Ballroom pledge to BE LOUD against sexual assault we have an example change starting to happen. After the breakfast, people wore their buttons to their work place, the coffee shop, and to their kids' basketball game. They shared information about KCSARC, about sexual assault, and for some, about their own experiences.

We can’t stop what we can’t talk about. Stopping sexual assault and sexual violence will take a major shift in our culture including how we think about sexuality, relationships, gender roles, and violence. One movie, one campaign, one conversation, one event won’t stop sexual assault, but the cumulative effect of all of these has a tremendous impact.

Keep talking.

Keep being LOUD.


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