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Originally published Friday, December 1, 2017 at 05:59a.m.

No one asks to be harassed. No one wants to be assaulted.

This isn’t an attention whore problem. Women do not deserve to be looked down upon and treated as objects and playthings. The ones who have come forward with harassment accusations are certainly not “pure attention getters … who don’t get harassed enough” as one Daily Miner reader suggests. Most women do not liked to be harassed or touched, and “Those women who are crying abought (sic) it now didn’t get touched enough” is a hateful, degrading way to think about women.

I am not your toy just because I am a woman. I don’t want you touching me.

I should not have to be forced or guilt-tripped into being “grateful” when someone harasses me on the street or at work. Wolf whistles are not compliments. Neither are crude shouts about what you would do to me or “I’ll show you a good time.”

That’s harassment, and no, I will not thank you. You don’t get to call me out on the street when I walking alone and make crude suggestions and expect me to smile benignly or acknowledge you in any way, shape or form.

And I am not any of the derogatory names you shout when I choose to ignore you. Neither are any of the victims of sexual harassment or assault.

Sexual harassment or assault is not something to be dismissed without investigation. It isn’t just a “boys will be boys” situation, and it certainly isn’t “just a joke.” People also don’t have to stand by and “just take the compliment.” The excuses being made or the anger being shown when men and women do step forward about sexual assault is the reason rapes go unreported. Only 310 rapes out of 1,000 are reported and only 6 of 1,000 perpetrators are incarcerated, according to statistics from the Department of Justice.

Victims are traumatized by what happened to them. They are slut-shamed into thinking it is their fault. Victims try to deny what happened to them. They try to hide and ignore the facts because something this awful could not have happened to them. They are not only physically traumatized, but emotionally, mentally. Victims are shells of who they once were.

To quote a statement from the 23-year-old victim of one Brock Turner: “If I told them (my family), I would see the fear on their faces, and mine would multiply by tenfold, so instead I pretended the whole thing wasn’t real.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly instances of women “crying wolf” that make it hard to take everything at face value, but that doesn’t mean allegations such as these should be disregarded as a whole. Those men and women who do cry wolf are a part of the problem, and should be punished or reprimanded for spreading those false reports. Those people have undermined the severity of the issue. Regardless, sexual assault and harassment are serious problems and each instance, each report should be treated as such.

“Locker room talk” and “compliments” and “boys will be boys” also undermine the severity of sexual harassment. The more pervasive “locker room talk,” the more likely people may be biased into thinking a crime like sexual harassment is normal and OK.

According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8 percent completed, 2.8 percent attempted). About 3 percent of American men – or 1 in 33 – have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse. A majority of child victims are 12-17.

And those are just the assaults that are reported. These statistics don’t include the massive scope that makes up sexual harassment.

As a woman, I should not be responsible for not getting raped or harassed. The extent of what I do to avoid those kinds of situations, how my behavior changes at night when I’m walking to my car after work and I’m alone, shouldn’t have to be different. I should be comfortable walking by myself and not be hyper-aware of every single set of footsteps that sound behind me. Are they walking the same pace as me? If I walk faster do they walk faster? If I pretend to stop and tie my shoe, do they keep walking?

“Never walk alone at night. Never walk down an alleyway. Never run upstairs if you’re being chased because then you can get trapped. Don’t keep your hair in a ponytail, it makes it easier to be attacked.” Those are the things that have had to become second nature to me, rather than teaching people rape and harassment are not an option, or that women are not sex dispensers who will crawl into bed if enough money is spent on them.

It’s easy to say, “Well you shouldn’t have been dressed that way” or “You shouldn’t have been walking alone.” It’s a lot harder to actually address the problem. The fallout of years of standing in silence is just beginning, and victims should be encouraged to step forward, to not be afraid.

Because it is never the victim’s fault.