With the Take Back the Night rally just in our rear-view, now seems just as good a time as any to shed light on how we – the general public – perceive sexual assault victims and what impact this has on their future sense of self-worth.
It’s no secret that perceptions of victims are often victim-blaming in nature. It has gotten to a point where women feel the need to organize such events as Slut Walk because it’s okay to rationalize and excuse sexual assault by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance or demeanour as the source of the problem.
“She was wearing a low-cut top, so she was asking for it.”
“Her skirt was so short. You knew she wanted it.”
“She was being so nice at the bar and she let me buy her a drink. She owes me.”
This makes me scared. I’ve been in these situations many times before and it’s frightening to think that on any given day, I could become a victim and it would be my fault! Essentially, if you have done anything that makes you something less than a perfect victim, you’re doomed. When did the world decide that “perfect” was the new standard? What recourse does this leave sexual assault victims with?
Of course, women (and men) are encouraged to report these incidences as soon as possible, but how she is treated during intake and questioning can lead to double victimization. She not only has to relive the horror, but she must also be convincing enough that people will believe her testimony. This often leads to apprehension in reporting, self-doubt, and blame which manifests itself in forms of depression, eating disorders, troubled behaviour, suicidal tendencies…the list goes on.
Thankfully, I have not personally experienced sexual assault, nor have I ever been placed in any uncomfortable sexual scenarios. But, I know too many people who have stayed silent because they’re afraid to share. What’s most striking to me is that they often immediately excuse the actions of the perpetrator.
“He didn’t mean it. I know he cares about me.”
“I just got way too drunk and was being too flirty.”
“Shit happens. There’s nothing I can do now.”
This is why we need to #breakthesilence and rally to reclaim our streets, reclaim our voices, and reclaim the night. Sexual assault victims are survivors above all else. They should feel empowered to take a stand and to educate the public on what constitutes sexual assault, the meaning of consent, and how to heal.
assault victims are survivors above all else. They should feel empowered to take a stand and to educate the public on what constitutes sexual assault, the meaning of consent, and how to heal.