Wed, May 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Raising awareness of sexual assault

Sadness engulfed many in Taiwan over the weekend, as the public bemoaned the loss of a young life, a promising female writer — whose name is withheld for privacy reasons — who otherwise might have had a bright future enjoying life to its fullest.

The woman’s parents surmised the main cause leading to their daughter’s death: They said it was not depression, but an inner demon that had haunted her since an incident about eight years ago when she was seduced and raped by a cram-school teacher.

What happened to the protagonist in her debut novel, allegedly about a young girl who is raped by her teacher, was actually their daughter’s own experience, the parents said.

The writer was obviously bright and talented, having been captain of her high-school volleyball team and school newspaper editor-in-chief, before going on to record a perfect score in the college entrance examination in 2009 to be accepted by a medical university.

Yet the writer, who should have lived to enjoy all the sweetness and happiness of youth, was apparently suffering as a result of someone’s lust.

The public’s grief is about more than the loss of a blooming writer who had proven her talent in her debut novel: It is also about a girl whose life was forever ruined because someone allegedly deciding to feed their own desires by taking advantage of their social standing.

It is beyond heart-wrenching that she decided to end her own life, presumably as a way to bring public attention to the pain she was suffering.

Many of her readers expressed unbearable pain, brought about by her piercing and delicate writing, that prompted them to put down the book.

“If, during the process of reading you are overtaken by a sense of pain, please do not put it down and think ‘fortunately it was just a novel,’” the writer once said. “I hope you can empathize with the protagonist.”

And, just as the death of the writer was dumbfounding to many, it comes as equally disturbing that a number of netizens, likely touched by her writing, were encouraged to come forward with their inner-most pain, reacting to the news of her death by sharing similar stories of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

This outburst leads to the question: How often do cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault take place?

According to the Humanistic Education Foundation, since the death of the writer there has been an increase in the number of calls the organization has received in regards to sexual harassment or sexual assault by teachers.

There might be a silver lining amid all this sadness.

The case highlights the important of sex education, teaching young people autonomy over their bodies, and public awareness of sexual harassment or sexual assault by authority figures.

The government should consider how to better prevent incidents in schools. The public also needs to be educated that victims of sexual assault are not at fault, but the perpetrators are.

Simply feeling sad does not bring about change; the public should turn this death into collective strength, a catalyst to start making a difference.

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