I have never been sexually assaulted or raped. I have been harassed, stalked, and patronized, but nothing that has given me nightmares; just the nature of being female.

There are probably many reasons why I haven’t been the target of a sexual predator (anyone who commits assault/rape is a predator), but any justification of my good fortune, I feel, removes responsibility from the attacker. For too long, it’s been the victim’s fault for putting themselves in a potentially harmful situation, rather than the predator’s fault for committing the act.

While I don’t have first-hand knowledge of such trauma, I have watched the toll its taken on close friends. I have done my best to help them, in the seemingly feeble ways I could: I listened, I supported, and most importantly, I believed them.

It’s been strange for me to watch everything unfold since the Harvey Weinstein scandal and resulting #metoo movement because I don’t understand why so many people don’t believe the victims. What’s worse is the backlash victims face when they do have the strength to come forward and seek justice. I can’t fathom how anyone can witness the aftermath of sexual violence/trauma on the victims and not believe them, let alone ridicule or threaten them for coming forward.

My issues with specific people’s reaction to and treatment of victims has reached a new level of concern when watching how politicians have reacted to and treated the accuser(s) of Brett Kavanaugh. Responses have ranged from refusing to believe them, patronizing the victim(s) by suggesting they must be confused or “mixed up”, to wholy ignoring the accusation(s) for the sake of politics.

All of this leaves me wondering about where we, as a society stand. Where is the moral/ethical line in the sand about how we treat people and what behavior will we permit, and what accusations/actions cannot be ignored? At what point does someone’s character and actions outside the job preclude their ability to do or warrant their removal from said job?

I am choosing not to discuss the legal/justice system’s role and responsibility to treat victims fairly and respectfully, because that, as it exists, is a different kind of disappointment.

I am addressing my concerns to politicians, political pundits, and members of the public who are prioritizing politics over people. What will it take for victims to be taken seriously, recognized respectfully, and treated fairly?

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Posted by Megan Livingston

Ms. Livingston is a PhD student studying Biochemistry & Cell Biology at UT MD Anderson/UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

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