How Angelina Jolie Can Singlehandedly Change The Way We Talk About Sexual Violence

by Katie Gonzalez

When Angelina Jolie convened the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict a month ago, the actress and humanitarian urged attendees to take a more nuanced look at how sexual assault and rape is used as a weapon in times of political conflict and war, often ignored for the more media-friendly images of tanks and armed combatants.

It’s been over a month since Jolie’s address from the Summit, and we’ve seen little change in how sexual violence in conflict is addressed.

Has there been a particular focus on this widespread issue as the crisis in Iraq with the militant group ISIS continues? Have new international protocols to increase the chances of convictions for this type of war-time assault been instituted?

The answer to both these questions, unfortunately, is no. And while certain communities may be slow to enact change on this issue, the call to action and advice Angelina Jolie presented in her opening speech at the Summit still have important implications for how we view, cover and prosecute sexual violence around the world.

Below, we’ve rounded-up some of Jolie’s remarks, adding our own commentary to show how her words are relevant to the sexual assault epidemic here in the United States.

“There is nothing inevitable about [rape]”

Jolie might have specifically been referring to rape in armed conflict, but this also applies more generally. There’s no instance in which rape should be considered normal, or deserved.

Although some individuals still claim a woman was “asking for it” by dressing a certain way, acting in what was interpreted as a sexually-provocative manner, or accepting a drink from a stranger, rape is never warranted or deserved when it occurs.

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“If they admit to being raped, they are likely to face more violence and rejection”

Despite George Will’s belief in a “privileged” class of sexual assault survivors, there’s nothing glamorous about being someone who has to live with the horrific action that’s been perpetrated against her.

Oftentimes, when women do come forward about their assaults, they’re further stigmatized or subjected to questions that undermine the horror they’ve already had to endure.

“We need to… make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes”

It’s true, cases of sexual assault aren’t just chronically under-reported, they’re under-investigated and under-prosecuted.

According to a new Senate report, although one in five college women will experience some form of sexual violence during their time on campus, 40 percent of colleges and universities admit they haven’t looked into sexual assault claims in the last five years.

And oftentimes, when these incidences are pursued by college disciplinary boards, the punishment that’s doled out isn't even close to fitting for the crime — in a Center for Public Integrity report, for example, students recalled how their rapists weren’t even expelled when they were found guilty, and were instead subject to lesser sanctions like suspensions and bans from social activities.

“…Rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial.”

Rape is an issue that’s difficult to talk about, but the only people being served by silence on this issue are those who have committed the crimes.

By raising awareness about rape and other forms of sexual abuse — like Saint Hoax has previously sought to do through a series of provocative illustrations — we can help lessen sexual assault survivors’ unwillingness to come forward, and hopefully can provide them with better counseling options and other helpful services.

“We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is on the aggressor.”

This quote speaks for itself. Survivors: you are not alone. As a society, we need to be better at providing the resources and understanding so, at no point through this type of ordeal, any victim feels shamed.

Perpetrators of sexual violence should be held accountable for their actions, to the strictest extent that the law permits.

Photo Credit: Getty Images