We can no longer sit silently and continue to be complicit in a society that exacerbates a rape culture. We are better than this and it is time that we all make the decision to change the way we think, and act, as a country, when it comes to the issue of sexual harassment and assault. When writing this I deliberately chose to use the word rape, instead of a watered down term to make people more comfortable. This is a difficult subject. One we’ve tried to sweep under the rug for too long because it’s difficult to talk about, and it makes people uncomfortable. But if we can’t use the right words to talk about this problem, we will never be able to solve it.
It is time to combat sexual assault in the United States of America.
Sexual violence happens in every institution we hold dear in this country. From college, to the military, and even in the workforce, sexual assault and sexual harassment pervade almost all parts of our lives, and for too long, our rape culture has been insufficiently addressed and propagated by those with positions of power.
We must immediately take substantive action to correct this societal ill which affects so many Americans.
Here are some statistics. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Nearly half of all women will experience sexual violence, as well as one in five men. The problem is much worse for members of the LGBTQ community, with almost 75% of bisexual women and half of bisexual men experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime.
In colleges and in the military, the statistics are even more stark. Only 5% of sexual assaults on college campuses are reported. Only 30% of military service members reported their assaults with only 9% of cases ending in conviction. The narrative that many of these crimes are falsely reported is flat out wrong. A summary of studies shows that the percentage of rapes that are falsely reported is between 2-10%. False reporting does exist, but it happens about as often as false reporting of other major crimes like murder, aggravated assault, arson and robbery.
With numbers like that, we don’t need cable news to know that this is a major problem.
What makes me sick, is that me, you, your children, your siblings, your parents, your coworkers, and your friends stand a strong chance of suffering sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
That is unacceptable.
It is sobering to see the steady stream of public figures facing allegations of sexual impropriety and violence, and we must offer support to the survivors as they risk their livelihoods in order to seek justice.
Also sobering is that you need may not need to look further than your own house to find survivors of sexual violence. Many say we need a change of heart as a country, but prayers, empathy and solidarity only go so far.
It is time to take action.
I am proposing legislative action to combat sexual violence, which I will make a priority the moment I am sworn into office.
Our plan consists of four parts:
Part One: Implement necessary affirmative consent reforms at our colleges and universities to combat campus sexual assault.
Part Two: Transform the way we educate our children about consent, by implementing a curriculum that teaches middle school age kids affirmative consent and helping them understand what is allowed and what is inappropriate and what to do if they find themselves in an inappropriate situation.
Part Three: Reform the process for military sexual assault investigation and prosecution by taking it out of a victim’s chain of command.
Part Four: Require expert-led studies to determine the protocols and procedures that need to be put in place on campuses and in the military so that sexual violence survivors are provided with the resources and support that they need.
This is just a start.
A hallmark of this nation is our ability to heed the call of virtue, right our societal wrongs and bring forward transformational change.
I believe that we are capable of that when it comes to reversing the epidemic of sexual violence. We must take responsibility and educate our children. We must reform our cherished institutions so that they are not incubators of violence.
We are capable of that.
I thank California Senator Kevin de Leόn, former Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson for their work in enacting First-in-the Nation Legislation to Combat College Campus Sexual Assault in the state of California.
I also thank the U.S. Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, for proposing legislation that would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.
And last but not least, I want to thank the many activist groups and nonprofit organizations that work tirelessly on behalf of survivors to eradicate our rape culture.
I stand with the millions of sexual violence survivors in this country and will help them lead the fight to combat sexual assault in the United States.