I have appreciated several of Starshine Roshell’s columns over the years, particularly those supporting healthy sexuality and reproductive rights. But her criticism of the MeToo movement, and use of glib language when referring to rape, presumably in an attempt to be clever, in her recent piece about the movement is demeaning to survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
As a professional sex educator for over 25 years and an adjunct professor teaching human sexuality at SBCC for the past 16 years, I have known and worked with too many women and men who have been raped and sexually abused to make light of such vicious crimes. Thirteen percent of my female SBCC students routinely report they have been raped or sexually abused, consistent with the national rate of 16 percent of women who experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
I share Starshine’s concerns about the lack of due process afforded many of the accused, and the lumping of less severe harassment and serious sexual assault cases, without considering the severity and frequency of the offenses. But overall the MeToo movement has been a tremendous step forward in supporting the millions of women and men who have suffered various types of sexual abuse.
While Roshell may have been raised as an assertive, privileged woman who is comfortable telling offenders to back off, many people are not so empowered or economically stable that they can do so, and should not be condemned for only coming forward when a set of novel conditions helped them feel safe enough to do so. The routine sexual harassment experienced by the majority of women should not be minimized, as the cumulative effect is to wear down women’s self-esteem causing them to believe they are responsible for sexual mistreatment.
I hope that rather than using her self-avowed insensitivity as permission to criticize, Roshell will be more sensitive to the traumatized and vulnerable population of sexual assault survivors in the future.
We can all do more to help prevent the conditions leading to sexual harassment and assault. We can teach boys and men to be respectful of females and to confront males who are not. We can teach girls and women to be confident and assertive. We can create greater economic and social gender equality, which will reduce the threat of retaliation for reporting sexual mistreatment. We can get discussion of sexuality and sexual assault out of the closet so people feel comfortable coming forward when sexual abuse occurs. And we can donate to Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center which helps hundreds of local women and men deal with sexual assault each year.