Conversation of sexual assault should be open toward all gender-inclusive people

Sunny Kim

Austin is known for its laid-back and friendly atmosphere. It’s also the second-best metropolitan city to live in based on its high quality of life, healthcare and education, according to U.S. News & World Report.

However, not everyone gets to enjoy this easygoing lifestyle. A report from the Association of American Universities shows that one in five women at UT has been sexually assaulted. In response, lawmakers are trying to figure out if universities are doing enough to address the problem.

Although we have a number of initiatives, such as BeVocal and Voices Against Violence, to reach out to the victims of sexual assault, rates of reporting to campus administrators and police are still very low. Victims don’t report these cases because they feel it’s not serious enough or are too embarrassed to talk about it.

Adding to the problem is how we perceive sexual assault. It is primarily seen as straight men raping women, dismissing the violence gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender victims face. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 percent of lesbian women, 61 percent of bisexual women, 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. We need to make discussion of rape and sexual assault gender-inclusive because everyone deserves the same attention, support and safe environment available to straight men and women.

As part of sexual assault awareness month this April, Voices Against Violence held an event called “Take Back the Night” on April 6 to highlight the movement to end sexual violence. This gender-inclusive event was open to the public.

Social work senior Kate Peoples shared how sexual assault impacted her life.

“I was raped nearly five years ago, the day before classes began for fall 2011 at UT. I ended up having to leave school for some time to get help,” Peoples said. “The PTSD is something I’ve really had to work through, had to be told by my best friend that what happened to me was wrong.”
 
Peoples also emphasizes the need to redefine what it means to be sexually assaulted.

“The rhetoric needs to shift from sexual assault as act of ‘sex’ to an act of violence because it’s not about the sex, plain and simple. Sexual assault is a violent act,” Peoples said. “Yet when it’s referred to as an act of sex, it keeps the conversation largely heteronormative, excluding the experiences of all genders.”

Mainstream media mostly portray women as victims of sexual assault. It’s difficult to see how this problem extends to all gender-inclusive people because of the existing homophobia and transphobia in our culture today.

When we don’t listen to the comprehensive story, we’re ignoring and invalidating others’ experiences. Sexual assault is a serious problem, and the first step should be including all people in the conversation, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Kim is a journalism freshman from Austin. Follow Kim on Twitter @sunny_newsiee.