According to Time Magazine, Silence Breakers, the group of men and women who have publicly come out as victims of sexual assault, are the 2017 Time Person(s) of the Year. This mantel is awarded to the person or group that has most influenced the newscycle that year.
From artists, to politicians, to actors and actresses, to news anchors, it seems that sexual assault is an epidemic that has been ignored for too long. In October, Twitter confirmed that there were over 1.7 million tweets containing #metoo, a number that continues to rise. As we see more and more people sharing their stories of harassment, the question becomes: when will this stop?
Most often we see cases of sexual assault where a person of social, economic, or political power takes advantage of someone with less power.
The idea of power in the workplace can often be translated to the lives of high schoolers. Whether it’s helping to lead the student section at football games or co hosting an online podcast, Junior Class President Jake Domagalski has shown his capabilities for leadership. He believes that growing up watching these allegations take place will end the cycle of unreported assaults.
“I’d like to think that there will be a better understanding of what’s appropriate and what’s not,” Domagalski said. “I was a fan of Louis C.K. and it impacted me a lot when those allegations came out because it makes you think differently about everything he’s said.”
Witnessing the public dethronement of celebrity figures was not something that the current generation of leaders had access to growing up. Domagalski believes that seeing public figures openly chastised will prove to be the greatest influence on the younger generations when it comes to sexual misconduct.
Principal Mark Thomas said that when he started his administrative career 24 years ago, “[sexual assault] didn’t receive the attention that it does now.”
For Thomas, sexual assault cases were circulated as “conversations over the back fence” while he was growing up. Thomas believes that the internet has been the primary factor in increasing awareness that wasn’t present when his generation grew up.
“With the advent of facebook and other social media applications, people make things much more public and there is a kind of accountability with that,” Thomas said.
Applied technology teacher, Chalice Dixon, feels that the act of victims coming out together has made the biggest difference in whether or not a case of sexual assault is reported. Dixon herself was a victim of sexual assault at the age of 18 and didn’t come out until 37 years later.
“I don’t think anyone would’ve believed me,” Dixon said. “Now there are enough people coming forth that other people are getting the strength to [share their stories].”
Dixon said that because of the amount of attention that’s focused on sexual assault right now, the younger generation “isn’t going to take it.” She believes that young people are already starting to be more proactive in stopping misconduct before it gets to a harmful level.
Domagalski acknowledges that there are still hurdles to achieving full workplace equality. Despite this, Domagalski, Thomas and Dixon all think that the future will ultimately bring progress.
“I don’t think it’ll be constant growth, there’s going to be dips and curves and all kinds of things where we regress and progress as a society and as a culture,” he said.
Regardless of what factors have been most important, the next generation of leaders have grown up watching the shortcomings of the generation before them. This is an experience that none of the previous generations have had. Maybe this knowledge is the final solution to a problem that has remained unsolved for far too long.