Everyone is accountable for their actions

Abby Carlin, Columnist

By now, most of us have read our fair share of sexual assault and harassment accusations in Hollywood. With #MeToo and #TimesUp, women, men and nonbinary individuals finally have a space in which their stories are heard and the movement is gaining traction.

With any social movement, these accusations meet angry ears. However, despite the criticism, most everyone seems to be on the same page: we agree sexual assault and harassment is bad.

Still, victims are exploited by abusers with power, money and influence, making it that much more difficult (and dangerous) to come forward.

Victims are silenced by a number of factors. Considering the factors in Hollywood, I imagine the fear of being blacklisted by their abusers and shamed publically is absolutely paralyzing.

One of the more recent accusations involve a public figure that is known for his cutting edge material and consistent “woke” behavior, Aziz Ansari. A woman published an in-depth recount of her night with Ansari, declaring that it was one of the worst nights of her entire life. She walks the reader throughout the entirety of her night with Ansari, starting with an intimate dinner and ending with her leaving his apartment in tears. Her story has received an immense amount of both support and scrutiny, as her story is not unfamiliar.

We need to talk about that.

If the story did happen, then Aziz Ansari sexually assaulted a woman. That is the end of it. Over and over again, this woman said no and used nonverbal cues, as well.

Sexual assault involves any unwarranted or unwanted physical contact. Ansari repeatedly inserted his fingers in her mouth, ignored her pleas to slow down and cease sexual activity and projected another more gruesome display of his sexual appetite. Ansari may not have raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster (reference to Brock Turner), but not all sexual assault is polarized in such a way.

This anonymous testimony mirrors the silent side of sexual assault. This was not just a bad date and dismissing her experience is part of the problem.

An individual does not need to be brutally raped to be violated. A woman does not have to be an employee or colleague in order to be exploited. The decision to tell a story anonymously does not lessen the importance of her truth.

Ansari cannot read minds. But, if a person can be expected to recognize verbal and nonverbal cues in every other space, they can most definitely be held accountable for recognizing them in intimate ones. Also, I am not really sure why people are so insistent on dismissing sexual misconduct based on talent, but Ansari’s comedic abilities do not excuse his behavior. As a fan of Ansari, I was deeply disappointed by the accusations, but as a feminist and an ally of those who have been abused, I cannot, in good conscious, dismiss the testimony. Even if the report is proven to be false, I will continue to unapologetically support those who share their stories.

This conversation is not really about Aziz Ansari. Ansari could be anyone and my opinions would be just the same. This is a conversation regarding the instinct to protect powerful people.

The fear of false reports is just another way to make victims feel small and prevent them from coming forward. As consumers, it is our responsibility to hold all accountable for their actions, our heroes and celebrity idols included.

Also, this is a moment to reflect on what sexual assault looks like, and as for the public, it is not our job to dictate what the victim should have done, but rather consider the actions of the accused.

I await the development of this accusation, but at this moment, I believe it is only right to support those who come forward.

Abby Carlin is a junior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].