Sexual assault is all too common in our world. These devastating attacks can happen anywhere: in the dark of night under the shadow of anonymity, or in the bright daylight and direct attention of live television. On December 7th last year, news footage of a runner slapping a reporter’s butt during a marathon illustrated just such an instance of blatant sexual assault in public.
The reporter’s name was Alex Bozarjian; she was covering the 2019 Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run. Many athletes ran past her and waved at the camera or made silly faces during her coverage. But one man did something different: the video shows him adjust his running path to come up close behind Bozarjian, wind back his arm, and presumably slap her. (The camera angle does not show the exact location of contact). Bozarjian’s face immediately becomes upset and shocked. She posted the clip on Twitter with the caption “To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”
Bozarjian gets to the heart of the matter quickly and profoundly. This man objectified and violated her through this action. Sexual assault treats the victim as an object, rather than as a person. It ignores their humanity and their right to safety and to determine what happens to their own body. Acts of sexual assault are born from the devastatingly flawed prioritization of the perpetrator’s desires over the rights of the victim.
Being pro-life means advocating for every human person’s right to life, no matter how vulnerable or different. Our consistency comes from the recognition that each person has inherent value and dignity that is innate to their humanity. No one needs to say or do anything to earn their humanity; it is automatically and naturally a part of all of us. The dignity that is derived from our human personhood is the origin of our basic rights, such as the right to live a life free of violence. Because of our humanity, each of us has the right to safety and bodily autonomy. Sexual assault violates those rights. Therefore, sexual assault is in direct opposition to pro-life principles, and we cannot tolerate or accept it.
The video evidence of what happened to Ms. Bozarjian proved very useful in tracking down the identity of the aggressor. He has been identified as Thomas Callaway and arrested on a charge of misdemeanor sexual battery. Callaway has since publicly apologized, and his lawyer released a statement indicating that Callaway did not act with criminal intentions.
Even if he did not have “criminal intentions,” Callaway’s actions were dangerously misguided. What he did was absolutely wrong, and highlights a common manifestation of dehumanization that we must seek to eradicate in all its forms.