culture shockers: America 2049 joins the fight as violent headlines loom this Sexual Assault Awareness Month


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Around 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 10, several neighbors along Clinton Street in the Lower East Side (Manhattan) heard Sarah Coit’s incessant screams. The screaming lasted for around 20 minutes, yet no one was able to figure out where it was coming from. Less than half an hour later, a man named Raul Barrera showed up at the local police station, covered in blood, and turned himself in for stabbing his girlfriend, Coit. According to the New York Times report, Barrera said he fought with Coit and wasn’t sure if she was still conscious. When officers arrived at the apartment, they found Coit in the living room with multiple stab wounds. She was pronounced dead at the hospital and Barrera was charged with murder. This incident punctuates the ongoing spate of domestic and sexual abuse cases that have been plaguing our society, which makes it even more crucial that we work to end the violence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it’s as important a time as any to firmly take a stand against sexual abuse. In all forms, and everywhere. America 2049, human rights organization Breakthrough’s Facebook game, is fostering much-needed dialogue on many social justice issues including sexual assault and sex trafficking.

Read a Q & A courtesy of writer Courtney E. Martin, as she interviews Rachel Lloyd, author of Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not For Sale, an Activist Finds her Calling and Heals Herself, and a former sex-worker about her painful story.

Watch a testimonial from a character in America 2049,  Maisy, a recent immigrant to the U.S. who has been trafficked:

The game joins long-running organizations and movements that have been working hard to put an end to sexual assault. One of the leading movements in this area is Take Back The Night (TBTN), an effort to empower women to invert the negative connotations of walking alone at night. TBTN also works with women who have been victims of the night to heal and move on. The organization describes the scenario that is all too familiar for many women-

“A woman walks alone down a dark, deserted street. With every shadow she sees, and every sound she hears, her pounding heart flutters and skips a beat. She hurries per pace as she sees her destination become closer. She is almost there. She reaches the front door, goes inside, collects herself, and moves on forgetting, at least for tonight, the gripping fear that momentarily enveloped her life.”

As incidents of sexual assault surround us, we must be particularly conscious of the growing societal ambivalence that exists towards the issue,  in large part due to our desensitization in the age of reality television and celebrity scandals. That is why, perhaps, during the recent scandal surrounding actor Charlie Sheen, most people turned a blind eye to the numerous cases of sexual abuse reported against him over the years, making him an unlikely media darling. The connection between this reaction to Sheen’s philanderings (which have, in many ways, made him an even bigger star) and how our society has absorbed the messages sent out by reality television, is increasingly obvious. A New York Times piece on this connection states-

“On reality television, gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality are not only entertainment but a means to an end. These enthusiastically documented humiliations are positioned as necessities in the service of some final prize or larger benefit — a marriage proposal, a modeling contract, $1 million. But they also make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.”

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual assault has fallen by more than 60% since 1993. While this is a positive development, at the same time RAINN also reports that every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. What’s worse, “most victims of rape do not report to the police, the reason for not reporting is as follows: 23.3% personal matter; fear of reprisal 16.3%; fear of police bias 5.8%” (Bureau of Justice Statistics. Rape and Sexual Assault, August 2002). Such statistics paint a harrowing picture of what future may befall our society if sexual assault continues.

In Breakthrough’s America 2049 players are challenged to confront many socio-political issues. Among these, sex trafficking features prominently in the second level of the game. The player, as the agent, is tasked with the mission to bust a sex trafficking ring that is claiming numerous victims. Through game-play, America 2049 aims to bring light on this issue, showing how much worse the problem can become in the future if we don’t put an end to it now.

Breakthrough joins all the individuals and organizations that are working hard to put an end to sexual assault in all its forms. This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we reiterate the message from President Barack Obama and call on everyone to take a stand-

“We must break the silence so no victim anguishes without resources or aid in their time of greatest need.  We must continue to reinforce that America will not tolerate sexual violence within our borders.  Likewise, we will partner with countries across the globe as we work toward a common vision of a world free from the threat of sexual violence, including as a tool of conflict.”

Check out the event calendars on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Take Back The Night websites for more information on how you can take part to put an end to sexual assault.

April 15, 2011 by Pulkit
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