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Social media comments can hurt sexual assault survivors

“Why did she have to wait all these years?” “I just think she is looking for fame.” These are some of the opinions I have read online recently regarding the issue of sexual assault. When reading comments like these I begin to wonder, when do people’s experiences expire? Is there a rule that makes an event invalid because it happened many years ago? Are these people on social media just being stupid trolls?

As much as I’d like to believe that some of these comments are from troll pages, deep down a part of me knows that these people might be human beings who actually believe what they are typing. After former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years for sexually abusing more than 150 girls and women, some of the first comments I read online were about how the judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, was a dramatic egomaniac who overreacted in her sentencing. Some people went as far as to say that her sentence was too harsh for the crime he committed. I looked at the profiles of these people, and what I found were mothers, fathers, and even young people who think a rapist got too harsh of a punishment for assaulting dozens of women. The harshest punishment I could imagine is the death penalty, but some people felt 175 years is just as harsh. It made me think of how society often questions and blames victims of sexual assault and devalues their horrible encounters through endless inquiry. Meanwhile, the perpetrators are often given the benefit of the doubt because “they are such nice people who could never hurt a fly.” I want to know what a person who never hurts a fly looks like, because I don’t think perpetrators of sexual assault fit the mold.

Recently I read a story of how a lady narrowly escaped an assault. When she shared her story on social media, a lot of people questioned where she was coming from at that time of the night. Not long after, the accused perpetrator came up with his account of the so-called assault, and a lot of people started asking for proof from the victim. Even after she uploaded videos of her altercation and struggle with the perpetrator, a lot of people called her dramatic and started pointing out all the times she had been “petty.” I saw a lot of women call her a liar and some others say it was karma for all of the times she made silly comments on social media. This is ironic considering the fact that women are always the first to say things like “Girl Power” and “Let’s build each other up,” and even host marches to talk about patriarchal oppression in society. How do the same people question someone’s experience when they know nothing about it?

It baffles me that people are quick to come to the defense of perpetrators faster than it takes them to acknowledge the hurt and trauma the victims have to live with. The moment a survivor shares his/her story on social media, they open up to everyone who might come across their story, and whatever response you give affects them directly. If you don’t believe a survivor’s story, then mind your business and continue with your life. The moment you make comments questioning their stories and doubting their experience, you add to the damage that has already been done. Social media is such a powerful tool, so we can’t afford to go around throwing out our opinions and thoughts all of the time. Sometimes if you are not going to help anyone with what you think, it’s best you log out and have a blessed day.

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