April is sexual assault awareness month. Every 73 seconds, an American experiences some form of sexual assault. This equates to about 433,648 victims each year. While sexual violence has seen a major decrease in the past 30 years, it obviously remains a very pressing and prevalent issue.
Last year, women around the globe fought to prevent sexual assault and rape and took tremendous strides toward a safer, happier world for women and for everyone. Below are just a few of the most successful movements and conversations that took place in 2019.
1. “Know My Name”
Chanel Miller was raped by Brock Turner nearly four years ago after a party at Stanford. This past year, her book, “Know My Name,” hit bookstore shelves nationwide. In it, Chanel describes her assault and its aftermath, including the trials at which she testified against her rapist.
During the trial, she spent much time in a room she dubs the victim closet before appearing in court. Putting words to her experience has empowered others to speak out as well, making it a powerful part of the #MeToo movement.
Netflix released the miniseries “Unbelievable” last fall. The show shares the true story of Marie Adler, who was sexually assaulted by a home intruder in 2008. Instead of presenting the show as a typical true-crime series, producers decided to focus on Marie’s life and how recounting her experience affected her.
The fact that Marie was confused after the assault supports the reality that everyone handles trauma differently. Each attack should be treated as a special case because no two victims are the same.
3. Banning of Non-Disclosure Agreements
One in three women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, and many will never report it. One thing that might hold them back is nondisclosure agreements.
Assailants often use these legally binding agreements to silence their victims, as was the case with Harvey Weinstein. In light of recent events, many states are prohibiting the use of these agreements in sexual misconduct cases. Notably, California, New York and New Jersey have all enacted laws banning nondisclosures in cases involving sexual assault, paving the way for other states to do the same.
4. Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund
While fear and nondisclosure agreements often stop women from reporting sexual assault, the cost of filing a lawsuit often prohibits them from doing so as well.
A group of women working in Hollywood started the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to help survivors file lawsuits against their assailants. Since they launched the fund, it’s raised $24 million to help mostly low-income and minority workers fight back against workplace assault.
5. Monetary Restitution on the Rise
Additionally, many survivors are also receiving more financial restitution. In the era of #MeToo, monetary awards in sexual misconduct cases are on the rise. This money may help pay for the cost of filing, therapy and recovery programs, among other things victims need to heal and live a fulfilling life after the case has reached its conclusion.
As the estimated lifetime cost of rape is $122,461 per victim, they should receive as much monetary restitution as is necessary to overcome the burdens of assault and the ensuing court cases and trials.
Where We’re Headed in 2020
Women made huge strides last year in preventing sexual assault and rape. 2020 is already off to a hopeful start. Just days ago, the court sentenced Harvey Weinstein to 23 years in prison on account of rape and sexual assault. This was a huge victory not only for the women he assaulted, but also for women everywhere.
The #MeToo movement, conversations about sexual assault and prevention, and legal actions are just beginning to ramp up. This year will likely spell more victories for women if they — and everyone around them — keep pressing for change.
Kate Harveston enjoys writing about and sharing advice on women’s wellness topics, whether related to mental health or physical. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her personal blog, So Well, So Woman.