Changing the cultural mindset on sexual assault

Protesters gather to speak out for victims of sexual assault as part of the movement to end rape culture. ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

The miniscule sentence Brock Turner served has caused people across the country to fly into a rage. However, it will take more than a few Facebook posts to elicit real change in this country. 

Yana Mazurkevich, a student from Ithaca College, released a photo series titled “It Happens” in protest of convicted rapist Brock Turner’s miniscule three months in jail after being charged with three felonies related to sexual assault. 

Mazurkevich worked in collaboration with the sexual assault advocacy group Current Solutions to demonstrate that rape can happen to “anyone, anywhere, anytime, without warning and without reason,” according to the post on the Current Solutions page. 

She told BuzzFeed News this is her way of saying, “Look. Look at this and don’t even try to ignore it because it’s right there in front of you to stare at.”

The photos include graphic depictions of sexual assault with the victim frozen staring straight into the camera. Each image is accompanied by a quote about sexual assault. 

Mazurkevich hit the nail right on the head. Sexual assault is not taken seriously in this country because people would rather pretend it doesn’t exist than get their hands dirty and push for actual change.

Out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators go free, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). The main issue is that, of those 1,000 cases, only 344 are ever reported to the police.

The list of reasons why victims choose to not report the crime is too extensive to cover here. But the victim-blaming culture that has permeated our society is inarguably a leading factor in their silence. 

Thankfully, we are beginning to see that mindset change. Starting in the late 60s and early 70s with Second-wave feminism, rape was re-examined and slowly began to work its way into public conversation. 

However, the fight for reforming cultural outlook on the issue didn’t truly take wing until the last decade. Within the last few years, we have seen cases saturating the media of victims speaking out against their aggressors.

Whether it was Bill Cosby facing trial for being accused of sexual assault on over 50 women, Lady Gaga performing “Til It Happens To You” at the Oscars and revealing she too was a victim of sexual assault or a college athlete being caught in the act behind a dumpster, the conversation is making its way into homes across the country.

The issue is no longer simply getting people to recognize sexual assault, it is breaking down the notion that “victims” are helpless or loose women and that “rapists” are shadowy figures in dark alleys. Sexual assailants are often acquaintances, classmates or significant others, and victims are often simply unable or afraid to stop their aggressor. 

Rather, it is taking the awareness and transitioning it to judicial reformation. Out of 344 cases reported to the police, 63 would lead to arrests, according to RAINN. Of those 63, only 13 would be referred to a prosecutor. When it’s all said and done, only 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction and merely 6 rapists will be incarcerated.

Six out of 1,000 is not a statistic we can afford to accept. Yes, it is a positive step to protest the laughably lenient prosecution of Turner. However, focusing on one case and remaining blind to the hundreds of others currently in court is hypocritical.

Frustrated citizens signed a petition to have Turner’s judge removed from the bench, and under pressure, he has chosen not to hear criminal cases for the time being.

It was a minor win but has in no way reshaped the face of the U.S.’s Justice Department. The problem so often with movements in this country is people will be passionate in the heat of the moment but refuse to continue the fight for any extended period of time.

Reforming a society’s way of thinking is not something that can be done overnight. Look up cases currently under ruling and use the same passion dedicated to the Turner case to demand justice for those victims across the country.

When lawyers, judges and politicians see the public refusing to tolerate this crime, refusing to turn a blind eye to the traumatizing offense that effects one in five women, they will begin pushing for true change. 

Continue to protest, continue to fight, and soon rapists who “just so happen” to be swimmers or CEOs of major media networks who sexually assault employees won’t be able to serve a few weeks in jail and be released or pay off their victims without any major repercussions.

If we’re diligent, soon victims will receive the justice they deserve. 


Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.