Whenever I hear that a “sexual assault” occurred, my mind immediately jumps to a some sort of struggle where a man forces himself on a woman against her own will. This, of course, is just one of the forms of sexual assault that can occur, as there are numerous. Sexual assaults have grown to become rampant nationwide, but especially on college campuses such as Richmond’s. So, why is this happening? To me, it is the result of our own history of living in a patriarchal society, the changing roles of women, as well as the atmosphere in which these assaults are occurring.
For about as long as humans have existed, men have held power in human society. This is not surprising, as on our primitive level the role of a male is to provide and protect his family while the female is responsible for bearing and nurturing children. However as society became more developed, the roles of women and men did not develop with it, until very recently. This delayed change has two major implications on sexual assaults.
First is the idea that men are still “dominant” in our society. Up until very recently, sexual assault was committed quite frequently as its definition was loose and measures to prevent it were scarce. During this time men still maintained significantly more power than women, so they had much more freedom to commit such acts without bearing any of the consequences. Repercussions for such acts were rare, except in more severe cases. This set a precedent that it was “ok” for men to sexually dominate women. This is a precedent that has been mostly barred from society, but has left a sort of residue that some men still see as acceptable. Although significant strides have been made against male’s sexual dominance over women, it is still in the roots of our past and it will take some time for it to completely disappear.
The second implication pertains to the rising power of women in our society. Over the past couple centuries, females have made significant strides in gaining gender equality and obtaining a stronger voice and presence in our society. These strides have greatly empowered women and allowed them to gain a great deal of confidence. In this way, more and more women are standing against sexual assault and are opening up more about it. Victims of sexual assault are becoming more confident in speaking out against sexual assaults and violence, resulting in more cases being reported and more offenders being charged. This is a great improvement, as it is certainly helping to grow awareness around sexual assault and educate people on how to prevent it.