Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Explains Why One Aspect Of Sexual Assault Keeps Victims Silent

”Sexual assault is about the abuse of power.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn't mince words while speaking out about the widespread issue of sexual assault during a powerful speech to protestors outside of Boston's City Hall Plaza on Monday. While addressing the allegations against current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and urging Sen. Jeff Flake to reject his nomination, the New York Democratic House candidate pointed out the imbalance of power that exists between accusers and perpetrators in many incidents of sexual assault.

Kavanaugh is facing allegations of sexual assault from multiple women, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The Supreme Court nominee has adamantly denied all accusations, delivering his own emotional and often angry testimony in rebuttal of the allegations last week.

During her speech, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted the vulnerable communities that are often targeted in cases of sexual assault. "Sexual assault is about the abuse of power," she said. "It is always women who are always marginalized. It is the young, it is the interns, it is the immigrant, it is the trans. They are always most at risk because society listens to them the least. And that is why a man believes that an elite education, a high income, and his rich friends can get away with sexual assault."

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She also went on to speak directly to sexual assault survivors, thanking them for "allowing themselves and everyone in this country to be re-traumatized over and over" by watching Ford's moving testimony and applauding her bravery in coming forward.

"People like Anita Hill and Dr. Ford have to speak in front a panel of 11 men," she said. "Could you imagine if Brett Kavanaugh had to sit in front of panel of 11 women of color? Could you imagine?"

Ocasio-Cortez's speech was delivered in protest of Kavanaugh's potential appointment to the Supreme Court, as he is expected to be voted on by the Senate following the completion of an FBI investigation into the allegations against him. But her comments also reflected an important point about sexual assault and the people it most impacts, specifically women of color and other marginalized groups.

Women of color face harassment and assault at higher rates than White women, although they are often less likely to report it. According to the CDC, 33 percent of women who identified as multiracial reported being raped, as did 27 percent of women who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native, 22 percent who identified as African-American and 14 percent who identified as Hispanic. And that doesn't account for the thousands and thousands of others who have reported a different type of harassment or assault or, as is most often the case, didn't report at all. LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color are also more likely to face sexual harassment or violence at some point in their lives.

Ocasio-Cortez's speech serves as an important reminder of the communities across the country plagued by sexual violence and the need for increased accountability among people in positions of power. "We are going to keep pushing because justice in America is not just about protecting the powerful," she said. "It is about uplifting the voices of the victims. Justice for all is radical in America. That's what we are fighting for."

(H/T: Boston Globe)

Cover image: Scott Eisen / Getty Images

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