VICE: What America Learned About Sexual Assault In 2016

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Amanda Nguyen, Founder of Rise and author of the legislation Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, S. 2163, signed into law by President Obama on  October 7. Photo: Boston Globe

The same country that elected a man accused by many women of sexual assault seemed to cross a critical threshold in discussing it.

For years, we have been fumbling for how to talk about sexual violence in America. In 2016, it seems like we finally found the words.

This year, we saw a 60th woman accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault. We saw Stanford swimmer Brock Turner walk free three months into a six-month jail sentence. We saw the soon-to-be leader of the free world brush off his hot-mic boasts of sexual assault as “locker-room talk” and the voters who carried him to the White House cheer the death of political correctness, where “political correctness” is the social barrier between America’s 156 million vulvas and Donald Trump’s tiny hands.

But somewhere in the Texas-size trash vortex of the last 12 months, we also saw a tidal shift in the way our culture understands sexual violence, and the degree to which we as a society are willing to accept things as they are. The misogynist tsunami that swept a handsy Cheeto to power left #notOK and the Women’s March on Washington in its wake, with more fights sure to follow inauguration day.

It “was a crazy year in many ways, but it was also a year that presented a tremendous opportunity for us in the field,” said Rebecca O’Connor, vice president of public policy for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). “Honestly, when it comes to sexual violence, America’s at a tipping point.”

Yes, if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that even acid rain clouds sometimes have silver linings. What follows is a non-exhaustive review of the state of sexual assault awareness in America, with thoughts on what’s to come and how to get involved in the new year.

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