“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.” – Kurt Cobain
The issue of sexual assault first attracted my attention earlier this year when there was a profusion of sexual assault cases in my area. I heard in the news that literally just around the corner from where I live a woman had been sexually assaulted at 8pm at night. Then suddenly another story hits the news cycle where another woman was sexually assaulted at 6am in the morning, again not far from my home. Coming from a relatively safe area where most things are walking distance this posed as a shock.
For the next month or so women in my area were urged by police to be careful on the streets. But at 8pm, seriously? Sometimes I’m only getting home from a day at work or university at that time. I feel like as a woman I should not have to be worried coming home at such an early hour of the night.
Suddenly my life started to revolve around this; I was paying for taxis to just go up the street and was changing my schedule to avoid coming home late.
I started to do some research into the topic and was surprised to find that this was only a small proportion of the issue and that more than 70% of sexual assault cases are committed by someone the victim knows, generally in a safe familiar location. This for me was scarier.
Sexual assault cases hit the news frequently and never fail to involve some form of victim blaming – “what did she expect after drinking that much?”
But I ask myself, is it supporting rape culture when reminding women not to drink and leave themselves vulnerable?
Do not drink, do not wear revealing clothing, do not walk alone at night. Women are told on the daily how to not get assaulted when really these statements are all big fat lies.
I’m not saying women should not be aware and careful. You can check out my posts on how to date safe and how to avoid drink spiking which are very important for all women to know. But women should always know it is never their fault. Period. No matter what the situation is. Stranger abuse or relationship abuse.
The conversation has to change.
The truth behind these myths needs to be uncovered.
We need to stop the silence.
‘It’s MY body’ – a children’s book by Lory Freeman written as a means for adults to discuss sexual abuse with their children without any awkwardness or alarm, instead focusing on open and sincere communication.
Obviously small children are not ready for explicit details on the issue of sexual assault however it is important that they learn how to make decisions about their bodies and how to communicate this with others. There is no direct reference to sexual abuse or violence throughout the story however the book illustrates touching codes in which children can use in order to protect themselves.
This is a really great step in protecting children from sexual assault however this is much more education which needs to happen in these early years.
Consent, something generally framed as “no” means “stop” in a child’s mind. Yes it is important that all children understanding the meaning of no however this is not the only way to show a lack of consent.
It is understandable why many parents withdraw from this topic of discussion with their children as it does seem a bit overwhelming. Nonetheless it should be taught. It is extremely important as it will structure the way a child acts in future relationships throughout both adolescence and adulthood.
Parents should always be modelling consent to their children and allowing them to make choices. Also by treating other adults well with good communication and boundaries it will demonstrate good behaviour for their children.
This dialogue should then never stop and should develop as the child does. It is also imperative the discussion should be balanced with children knowing that touching is not bad in every case but there are boundaries.
For more information you can check out steps on how to teach your child at different ages here http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/03/teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/
An article published earlier this year by Snopes.com discusses the reported recent development that college students have developed a nail polish “Undercover Colours” which can detect the presence of date rape drugs.
The article however states “Undercover Colors hasn’t demonstrated they have anything more tangible than a concept at this point… some critics have maintained that the concept of such drug-detecting fingernail polish isn’t even a feasible one.”
Each year thousands of young women and men fall victim to drink spiking involving both alcohol and drugs being added to their drink without them knowing. And in many cases they are used before the act of sexual assault.
Drug detecting nail polish or not, it is important for all young people to be aware of this issue and know that no matter what the situation is, drink spiking is illegal.
What are they?
Drugs used in drink spiking are referred to as “date rape drugs” with alcohol being the most commonly abused. Others include gamma-hydroxbutyrate, ketamine, and tranquilisers such as valium and rohypnol. These can come in powder, liquid or tablet form and do not always have a recognisable taste or smell so therefore commonly go unnoticed.
How can you tell if your drink has been spiked?
Most drug effects take up to 15-30 minutes to show and these symptoms may last for several hours. Symptoms generally include:
- Blurred vision
- Memory loss
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of balance
- Lowered inhibitions
How to avoid drink spiking?
- Never leave your drink unattended
- Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know
- Stick to bottled drinks and avoid punch bowls
- If you think your drink may have been touched do not drink it
If you ever start feeling strange or suddenly more drunk than you should be you should always get help immediately whether it be telling someone who is with you or getting to your local hiospital or emergency unit.
Read more about Undercover Colors and date rape drugs at http://www.snopes.com/2015/06/05/undercover-colors/
Whilst reading an article regarding the other day I stumbled across the term “grey rape”. I had never heard of this term before and honestly had no idea what it meant, was it literal?
When I looked it up I found it is a fairly common term which is used to describe acquaintance and date assaults instead of “real rape” which describes stereotypical stranger assaults with high levels of violence.
Considering more than 70% of sexual assault cases are in fact committed by someone that victim knows on a personal level, the majority of rape cases therefore fall into the category of “grey rape” and therefore this should not be a typical ‘grey area’ – but it is.
An article published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 2007 defines grey rape to be “sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial and is even more confusing than date rape because often both parties are unsure of who wanted what.”
Cosmo Magazine is not the only one to publish articles regarding this new myth, with others depicting that some areas of sexual abuse, such as date rape are less serious than others. In that is being sexually abused by someone you are dating not as bad as being abused by a stranger? You do know them on an intimate level right so can’t be that bad?
Fact: it is.
This new term is dangerous in society as it promotes the myth that sexual assault does not count when it is committed by someone you know, in some cases it is an ‘accident’ and that it is not really sexual assault is alcohol, flirting or other actions are involved.
The failure to recognize that all sexual assault cases are bad is excusing perpetrators from taking accountability and leading to victims feeling at fault.
Stranger or partner, drunk or sober – all forms of sexual assault are a crime and if you have experienced any unwanted sexual contact you deserve to be heard.
Sexual assault is a prominent issue in society with victims not speaking out about it and perpetrators not understanding the definition of rape. There have been numerous campaigns tailored towards the issue of sexual abuse which have mixed reviews by many and here we will review three campaigns which particularly stood out.
Sussex Police Rape Poster:
A police campaign in Sussex which intended to combat the issue of sexual assault has in fact been strongly criticised for signifying that rape is the victim’s liability. The campaign asks the question “which one of your mates is the most vulnerable on a night out?” and then goes on to answer “the one you leave behind. Many sexual assaults could be prevented. Stick together and don’t let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own.”
Victim blaming is common in today’s society especially regarding the issue of sexual assault and although this poster had good intentions, it must be prioritised to spread the knowledge that it is never the victims fault. This particular poster conforms to the tradition of sexual assault campaigns always being targeted towards the victim and prospective victims rather than those who really have the control to avoid it – the perpetrators.
Victims need to be encouraged to speak out but after seeing posters like this portraying victim blaming are they really going to want to speak about it? Why not target men with messages about consent?
Don’t be that guy campaign:
Unlike the previous campaign, this campaign aims to target young men by showing them that sexual assault is never okay no matter how much a girl has had to drink. The campaign also persists to contest the myth that sexual assault is committed by stereotypical bad guys in dark alleyways by illustrating that it generally occurs between two people who know each other and hence targets issues of consent and alcohol abuse.
Posters with provocative imagery such as passed out young women were disseminated throughout college campuses in the US and advertisements were displayed on busses and television.
This campaign was a great effort to move away from victim blaming by changing the focus of sexual assault messages from women’s behaviour to men’s.
Grace Brown, founder of Project Unbreakable, aspired to depict a touching and heart wenching story of survival for sexual assault victims. The project involves a compilation of photographs which each feature a sexual assault victim holding a poster with a quote from their attacker.
With more than 2000 photographs being exposed, this project is like no other as it is not only aiming to prevent it but also generates awareness of the diverse issues surrounding sexual assault. It is helping victims to improve by empowering other victims to come forward and share their stories.
Which campaign do you believe to be most effective?
For anyone that has been victim to sexual abuse and still suffering from severe post effects please know you are not alone. Sexual assault is a very personal and self destructive experience which can have ongoing emotional, psychological and physical effects. As every person is different, everyone has their own way to deal with things however we aim to explain the most common responses experienced by victims of sexual assault.
DENIAL – following the initial shock of a sexual abuse incident, it is ordinary for victims to deny to themselves or others that the event has occurred. This is very normal as victims may wish to restrain the memory and aspire to recover the constancy in their lives.
INSOMNIA – victims of sexual violence are often prone to nightmares and sleepless nights in which they may relive the experience or similar occurrences. It is very common for a victims subconscious keep thinking about what has happened and replaying the incident.
FLASHBACKS – similar to nightmares, many victims have strong memories of the incident which are in many cases so vivid they feel they are reliving the experience.
EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS – after a traumatic occurrence in which a victim has experienced loss of control and a sense of helplessness it is normal but them to feel weak and unemotional. This is dangerous and may be interpreted wrong by others as it comes across that they are composed and in control of the situation.
SELF BLAME – it is extremely common for victims to believe the incident was their own fault and that the situation could have been avoided if they had acted differently. This is particularly related to the issue of victim blaming and a myth surrounding sexual assault that it is always the victims fault.
SHAME – victims commonly feel embarrassing by what has happened and therefore do not want to speak out about it. This can result in underreporting of the issue as well as difficulties for victims in future relationships and situations.
LOSS OF CONFIDENCE – after a sexual violence incident, it is normal for a victim to feel degraded and humiliated. This can result in a lack of confidence especially sexual confident leading to them finding it difficult to establish a healthy sexual relationship in the future.
FEAR AND HOSTILITY – sexual abuse is a scary and distressing experience therefore victims may gain a fear of being by themselves. It is also very common for victims to develop a sense of fear or hostility towards the gender of their offender.
DEPRESSION – it is very common that sexual assault can lead to depression in forms of fear, anxiety or self hatred. Many victims find it hard to cope with the pressures and effects following a sexual assault incident and therefore become depressed.
It is important for all sexual assault victims to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE and THERE IS ALWAYS HELP. It is important for victims to speak out and for society to be aware of the issue of sexual abuse in order for other victims to overcome their post experience effects.