CAST hosts Break the Silence event to educate students about sexual assault
WARNING: The following article contains content regarding sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Cleveland Against Sex Trafficking (CAST) recently hosted an event titled "Break the Silence," going over information regarding sexual assault and harassment in light of the #MeToo Movement.
CAST is part of Lee University's Restorative Justice Council and the club aims to educate students about issues of sex trafficking and sexual violence.
"Break the Silence" took place last Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Johnson Lecture Hall. Students filled the seats as CAST President Chanmony Miller opened the event with sobering facts about the evening's topic.
"The statistics for [sexual] assault are so high they are staggering," Miller said. "Every 98 seconds someone in America alone is sexually assaulted. That's 37 [people] by the end of this event. Seven of those 37 will be children."
You can read more about the statistics regarding sexual assault on RAINN.org. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
According to Miller, sexual assault is sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim.
In regards to the #MeToo Movement, according to Miller, an abuse of power is often at play when it comes to sexual assault and harassment.
"The #MeToo Movement was not originally about [abusers]," Miller said. "[The movement] was originally about supporting and empowering survivors."
Following Miller, sophomore anthropology major Natalie Schutz spoke about the aftermath sexual assault victims may face.
"Victims of sexual assault will often hear that their behavior led to them being assaulted," said Schutz. "Studies have proven that there is no correlation between risky behavior and sexual assault."
Schutz explained that seven out of ten sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knew or someone who had a relationship to the victim, according to RAINN.org.
Senior Bible and theology major Samuel Smith focused his presentation on the challenges faced by male victims of sexual assault and stigmas associated with being a male.
"With male stereotypes there is an attitude of 'tough it out,'" Smith said. "In light of how people respond to females, males have much more rigid [expectations] that you're supposed to be independent and handle this on your own."
Smith said the attitude underlying those expectations furthers the assumption that men are not as affected by occurrences of sexual assault. He concluded with the conflation of sexual assault with a victim's sexual orientation.
"It must be realized by all parties that whether someone is gay, straight or bisexual, a victim's sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse," said Smith.
Sophomore international business major Katie Jones used her portion of the event to speak about sexual abuse in the church and the rise of a group within the #MeToo Movement called #ChurchToo.
A study by Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention found that 93 percent of sex offenders described themselves as religious, according to Jones.
Sophomore intercultural studies major Molly McKenney detailed instructions on what she says a survivor can do once an incident of assault occurs. She explained that, if possible, the victim should call the authorities, but she said she knows that is not always possible.
RAINN states that some of the reasons survivors do not report sexual assault include fear of retaliation, belief the matter is private, or because they reported it to an official other than police, among other reasons. They also provide resources for survivors to help them understand the reporting process.
"That's not always an option for you, and that's okay. We recognize that it's not that easy and can be extremely traumatic," said McKenney. "If that is something that you think that you can do, please know that we are encouraging you to take that step."
In closing the event, Miller echoed her opening rumination on the meaning of #MeToo and how the people behind and beyond the hashtag can change the world.
"It is really easy in our culture to be overwhelmed by social injustice," Miller said. "Fight the urge to go numb and do what you can where you can."
CAST meets on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in HUM-103 and said they are planning on expanding their social media presence in the upcoming spring semester.