Should Sexual Assault Ruin the Offender?

Dylan Yonce, Op-Ed Editor

Sexual assault is an issue being dealt with thoroughly both in the United States and around the world. It is a time where victims of sexual harassment and assault are finally feeling the support they need to come forward and tell their stories. With Bill Cosby being the first major ‘star’ to suffer serious punishment for sexual crimes, following the increased support of the #MeToo movement, it looks as if American culture might be moving in a positive direction to protect victims of sexual violence and set clear examples of the severity of the issue.

Specifically, with the investigation into allegations made against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, there have been debates about the validity of claims from incidents that occurred as long ago as high school, as well as punishment for such alleged behavior in regards to career.

Of course, there are varying levels of severity when it comes to the issues surrounding sexual assault. Should someone be put away, or lose a career for yelling out a car window, or making a rude comment? The answer is no, definitely not. Yes, they are a terrible person, and yes they are probably struggling with insecurities and issues of their own that lead them to think people enjoy being catcalled or commented on. They are virtually harmless at that point, and the victim of catcalling (or other minor offenses) in most cases, will not suffer from the incident for much more than the thirty seconds it takes them to flip the offender and continue on their merry way.

The issue arises when the assault is so traumatizing, that it strips some part of the victim’s soul away. Workplace bribes or threats, repeated harassment, and rape isn’t things that people just forget about, and everyone deals with trauma differently, so the “why didn’t they come forward with this earlier” or “they don’t seem to remember every detail” arguments are not valid whatsoever. Just because it is hard to recall exact events, it does not mean that nothing happened, or that it is any less serious. Of course, it is important to be thorough in investigations claims and ensuring that they are legitimate, but if there is substantial emotional damage, or damage to someone’s soul because of something that happened to them, that was out of their control, it should ruin a career. If someone is willing to take a part of someone else away, out of anger, or stupidity, or selfishness, they deserve to be ruined.

There is no excuse for this kind of behavior, and society has until this point, set an example that says two things…1) victims don’t benefit by coming forward, because justice won’t be done, and 2) the most common form of punishment for offenders is a legal slap on the wrist, and if you’re important, a little bad press. Unfortunately, the pattern of little to no punishment for these crimes has fostered a culture where this behavior has been in some ways encouraged, and by no means restricted. We have a long way to go as a society to fix the stigma around sexual assault and properly take care of the people who have been most directly affected by it. The best place to start, however, is by changing the precedent of punishment for those found guilty of sexually harassment and assault. The sooner American society shows strength and takes charge of the issue, the sooner the number of incidents is reduced and the more countries that look to the United States as an example will work for positive change on this issues in their own nations.

It is unfortunate that sexual assault has been, and is still being used as a political conspiracy in the fight for the Supreme Court and Presidency, and as a winning tactic for members of Congress and other public offices. Regardless of political party or background, it is vital to remember that these people aren’t just a vote, or a news story, or a political pawn. Victims of sexual assault are real people, with real trauma, and deserve to be treated as such.