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The Sexual Assault Revolution

October 9, 2018

In the last little while, we have seen two very predominant hashtags appear in our social media feeds;

 

#metoo

 

and,

 

#whyIdidntreport

 

There is so much importance within these two hashtags that a small blog post will by no means do it justice. However, in light of the recent events, we just wanted to touch on this subject and ensure that you are not alone. We are here for you.

 

We are so incredibly lucky to be living at a time where we have the power of the internet to connect us all. No one has to be alone anymore. The mass no longer needs to suffer in silence at the hands of a few.

 

Now is the time we not only hear the voices of so many victims speak up, but we see them making changes. With major cases like Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar, Brett Kavanaugh and the abuse allegations coming out against the Catholic Church, you can truly see the shift in society about what should be considered the norm.

 

I want to begin by making sure we are all on the same page.

 

What is sexual harassment and assault?

 

  • inappropriate touching

  • invasion of privacy

  • sexual jokes

  • lewd or obscene comments or gestures

  • exposing body parts

  • showing graphic images

  • unwelcome sexual emails, text messages, or phone calls

  • sexual bribery, coercion, and overt requests for sex

  • sexual favoritism

  • being offered a benefit for a sexual favor

  • being denied a promotion or pay raise because you didn’t cooperate

  • being forced to perform oral sex

  • someone forcing themselves on to you, either orally, vaginally, or anally

  • being drugged and rendered unconscious or incapable of defending oneself

 

Significant Reasons Why Reports Do Not Happen

 

Surprisingly, we still far to often seem to be asked the question ‘why didn’t you report?’ or ‘why didn’t you come forward?’. While times are getting better, there still seems to be opportunities to perpetuate victim blaming. It is amazing how many people shift the blame onto alleged victims, asking why they waited until now.

 

As sexual assault victims, we do not come forward because it is easier to avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation. It is easier to attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior.

 

We do this because of too many labels:

 

  • Being labeled dramatic.

  • Being labeled a liar

  • Saying we were too drunk

  • Saying the clothes we were wearing were asking for it

  • And so much more.

 

What You May Be Feeling and How That Influences Coming Forward

 

Shame

 

Shame often causes the victims to blame themselves, which is made even more concrete by the fact that everyone around seems so adamant about victim blaming. Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. It makes us want to hide, hang our heads, stoop our shoulders, and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible. It is during this time that the belief that we are defective or unacceptable surface. The lack of worth, the lack of love and the lack to be loved, slowly drag us down. Since we want to believe that we have control over what happens to us, we feel extremely undeserving of anything, since we allowed this to happen to us. We feel humiliated. We believe we should have been able to defend ourselves. And because we weren’t able to do so, we feel helpless and powerless.

 

This thinking is wrong. It is often easier to blame oneself than to admit that you were rendered helpless by another. We strive for that control in our lives and this event has taken that control away from us. This is why we don’t come forward.

 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

 

Denial and Minimization

 

The tendency to blame ourselves due to the overwhelming shame is why we start to minimize what happened and enter a stage of denial. Which is another major reason victims of sexual assault don’t come forward. Many of us refuse to believe that what happened was actually abusive. We convince ourselves that it wasn’t a big deal or that some people have it much worse.

 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

 

Fear of the Consequences

 

Fear of consequences like losing our jobs, losing our credibility, of being labeled, of retaliation, and fear for our lives are reasons we don’t come forward. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes due to things like the common belief that it is purely a ploy used by someone to get back at someone else or the fact that the attacker has manipulated and threatened the victim. Not to mention the fact those of us who have tried to come forward are often scrutinized to the point of exhaustion and punished for doing so.

 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

 

Low Self-Esteem

 

Most of us already suffer from low self-esteem, so being a victim of sexual assault can easily push us further inwards. Having the lack of respect for our own body and integrity and then having someone violate it makes it so much easier to downplay what happened. Sexual violations wound our sense of self, and the more it happens, the more our self-image becomes distorted. Little by little, acts of disrespect, objectification, and shaming whittle away at us until we have little regard for ourselves and our feelings. There is a huge price to pay for “going along” with sexual exploitation. You end up giving away your integrity. Even the most confident of us cannot sustain this high when sexual assault happens. These feelings are normal yet this is a big reason we don’t come forward.

 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

 

Feelings of Being Hopeless and Helpless

 

Since we cannot turn back time, we feel there is nothing we can do to change what has happened. And considering how cases of sexual assault have been treated up until now, we feel even more helpless. With so much on the line and so much against us, how can we be expected to see a light at the end of the tunnel? This is why we don’t come forward.

 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

 

Disbelief

 

It is not uncommon for us to doubt our memories especially when alcohol had a part to play in when it happened. Or take into consideration being drugged, we can feel something is wrong but we aren’t sure yet what it is, how can we go and make a report on the hunch we have.

 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT

 

Can you see how difficult it is coming forward? Those of us who have been victims of sexual assault deserve recognition about how difficult it is and compassion for what we have been through. We need to be encouraged to begin to push away the internalized shame with anger and to learn how to give the shame back to our abusers.

 

How many more times will we hear ‘no one will believe you’. How many more times will we fear the consequences? How many more times will we believe it was our fault?

 

NO MORE TIMES!

 

Instead of putting the focus and energy on why victims don’t report, it would be far more productive to ask what we can do to change these situations. Even more importantly we need to focus on how we can better support victims in their quest for justice and healing.

 

 

 

With movements like Me Too and Why I Didn’t Report we see the slow changes. Having access and a voice so readily accessible to us will move mountains. Even old laws such as the statute of limitations are now being lifted to ensure that victims get the proper justice they deserve.

 

We will do this together. We now stand together, stronger than ever.

 

#sexualassaultrevolution

 

We are always here with open arms and open ears, if you ever need to talk to someone, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

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