This video was the first story I heard during the campaign. It turned into one of many that I would go on to hear that fitted this narrative. So why is it one that we don’t hear about all the time?
Sexual assault. Those two words side by side are enough to send a chill right through you. Say it aloud and two words become a powerful statement, with potentially serious consequences. Yet the report rate for both sexual assault and harassment is staggeringly low.
We’ve been taught since a young age to assume a singular narrative of sexual assault – if you’re out alone, late at night, you’re putting yourself at risk of an attack.
Because of this when most people think of sexual assault or rape they think of a dark alley, with a hooded stranger waiting in the shadows.
But when you talk to someone that has suffered a serious sexual assault about the issue, 90% of the time they think of someone they know.
Sexual assault is happening. Everywhere. Regardless of lighting conditions, or familiarity with the perpetrator or whether you’re in a baggy t-shirt and trackies or dressed to the nines. It’s happening in the comfort of people’s homes, in everyday settings, carried out by loves one you are supposed to be able to trust.
The problem starts with education… When you think back to your sex education, do you remember learning anything about consent – other than no means no?
I don’t. I remember a banana and a condom, and the predictable response to that from a room full of teenagers. But what good is knowing how to put a condom on, if you are then ‘stealthed’ by your sexual partner?
For some reason the assumption that if you are unfortunate enough to experience sexual assault or harassment, it won’t be from someone you know, is both dangerous and confusing.
These myths and misconceptions about sexual assault lead many of us to not realise or even acknowledge that we have been sexual assaulted.
The frequency of victim blaming, especially when the survivor is female, is waaaaaay too prevalent. Why was she out alone at night? What if she was wearing more appropriate clothing? Should she have been drinking?
These, quite frankly, ignorant comments have resulted in a huge epidemic of self-blame, saturated in every account of sexual assault that I have been told throughout the campaign. ‘I shouldn’t have drunk alcohol’, ‘I shouldn’t have gone home with him’, ‘maybe I encouraged that behaviour?’
Going home with someone doesn’t mean you have to sleep with them if you change your mind. Even going home with someone and sleeping with them does not mean you have to consent again. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to have sex with them WHILE YOU’RE UNCONSCIOUS. Because that’s rape. And I shouldn’t be having to remind these brave women that this is the case.
That’s what these casual, victim blaming remarks, are brainwashing women to think!
If you’ve not been hiding under a rock, you will have seen the allegations that have surfaced against Kevin Spacey. It’s so refreshing to see so many males coming forward on this issue, as it is equally as hard for them to speak out about assault, and its abuse that affects both genders.
While victim blaming is prevalent amongst both sexes, when in the extensive media coverage of these accusations against Spacey, where have you seen/read/heard off-the-hand observations about the clothes that the male victims were wearing, or the amount of alcohol they had consumed? I’ll tell you where, nowhere.
When someone tells you they were mugged, how often do you tell them they were reckless for walking alone, or asking for it for wearing a watch?
You might however have seen commentators try to explain, even justify, Spacey’s behaviour by claiming he had too much alcohol. We are always quick to assume the perpetrator who carries out acts of sexual assault has some explainable ‘excuse’.
So in the case of sexual assault, why do these insignificant details take centre stage over the huge trauma a women has just experienced, or the support that she needs following her bravery in coming forward?