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Weinstein case begins national conversation


The recent scandal regarding Harvey Weinstein has sparked critical conversations regarding cases of rape and sexual assault. Weinstein, American film producer and former studio executive, has been fired by his company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences due to numerous allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and rape. The news coverage leads to questions about the protection of women in the workplace and the combined dangers and inequalities women encounter in the realm of sexual misconduct. Not isolated to being a Hollywood scandal, sexual assault and misconduct on college campus and among millennials cannot be ignored.

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Sexual assault, especially sexual assault on college campuses, is prevalent throughout the United States. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that in eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them. This statistic reveals that victims of rape are not randomized victims whose safety is precariously bound by numbers of “what if” and uncertain probabilities; sexual assault often has a face, if not a name, for the victim’s attacker(s).

Sexual assault cases, such as the high-profile cases of Weinstein and Bill Cosby, paired with the crippling statistic that the majority of victims recognize their attackers, causes a widespread sociocultural issue regarding how victims’ voices are regarded. In a victim-blaming culture, the question “Why didn’t they say anything sooner?” often discredits the victims and is frustrating to those who develop the courage to speak up about their attack. Aside from a lack of courage or fear of retaliation, sexual assault victims often face a power dynamic where despite speaking up they are shamed for not speaking up sooner.

Additionally, because many sexual assault victims recognize their attacker, relationships and reputations become like a ticking time bomb where each encounter feels like a lit match dropped near a powder keg. It is the lack of support and a debilitating societal structure for sexual assault victims that contribute to a lack of overall reporting from victims.

To address the lack of support for victims and imposing power structures, many colleges and universities work to create safe spaces, programs, and resources. CU Denver employs multiple resources, such as The Phoenix Center and The Counseling Center, to build a safe community for sexual assault victims and increase awareness on the topic; whether it is free and confidential counseling, victim advocacy, social events, or trainings, a multitude of methods are used at CU Denver to address sexual assault.

One of the most widespread and known awareness programs by The Phoenix Center is The Red Flag campaign, where each flag represents one survivor of interpersonal/relationship violence on the Auraria Campus. Additionally, the Office of Equity conducts a sexual misconduct survey that aims to understand sexual misconduct in the context of the CU Denver campus. As of 2016, 9.6 percent of staff, students, and affiliates experienced sexual misconduct, while 1.6 percent experienced sexual assault. Although the percentages may seem low and one might disregard the statistic, it is important to realize that although sexual assault may not affect one personally, it does affect the university community and ultimately, society as a whole.

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