Tuesday, April 3, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Over the past year, incidents of sexual violence have captured the attention of people across the country. This includes victims sharing their experience in high-profile cases, those sharing publically on social media through the #metoo campaign, those experiencing sexual violence in the Capitol building in Carson City, and thousands of people who have been sitting quietly, unable to share their victimization due to fear of retaliation, escalated violence and having their honesty and character called into question. While this is a national issue, Nevada has an important role to play, considering we have consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous states in the nation for women.
The recent outpouring of victims and survivors has validated what advocates in the field have known for decades. Most women have experienced sexual violence in the workplace at some point. This is surely not confined to women, and marginalized victims such as those who are undocumented and those who are LGBTQ face even more barriers.
The conversation about sexual violence is stopping far short of where it needs to. Do those who commit sexual violence need to be held accountable? Absolutely. Do victims have every right to demand consequences and reprimand? Without a doubt. But rather than being the end of the conversation, this should be the beginning.
For years, acts of sexual violence have largely been considered private and dealt with discreetly. This time has passed. Opportunities to have these conversations are everywhere: at our dinner tables, with our children, with our friends and co-workers and at the grocery store. The topic comes up all the time, and we can use these opportunities to engage in a meaningful conversation instead of a frustrated dialogue that ends with “Well, that is awful, but what can I do?” All of us can do something. We can have an honest dialogue about this and face the reality that our cultural norms can be damaging. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but there is support available.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the testimonials and news coverage of sexual violence, but I want to highlight moments of hope. The second annual Women’s March was an example of this. Thousands of Nevadans marched to stand for equality and the rights of women and all people to feel safe and respected. There is a strong sense of unity, and this gives me hope.
The Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence has been exploring ways to further this conversation. This requires statewide collaboration. In an effort to bring Nevadans together, the theme of our 2018 conference, from Sept. 24-26, will be “Beyond #metoo, Utilizing Momentum for Cultural Change.” We are accepting workshop proposals until April 13. Our vision is to unite people to learn and network about ways we can end these forms of violence and positively change our culture.
We all have a role to play, and each of us must find our own way to contribute to reducing violence against women. I call on all Nevadans to join this movement and learn more about how to support survivors and empower positive cultural change.
Sue Meuschke is executive director of the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (previously the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence), which provides advocacy, education and support for organizations that help those affected by domestic and sexual violence. Help for victims and in