Tag: Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Their voices

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Their voices

editor’s note: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and our campaign wanted to amplify the voices of those whose experiences are most relevant to this issue. This is a serious issue that requires all of us to do our part. As a campaign, we are grateful for the stories we will get the chance to share.

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault

-Leigh, L.

Sexual assault is a broad term that encompasses many different behaviors in which informed and affirmative consent was not given in relation to a sexual act or advancement. The definition varies from state to state legally, and the connotation of “sexual assault” varies depending on one’s education about the topic. However, the one thing that will never change about sexual assault is that it is never the victim’s fault. Too often, victims are marginalized and convinced that they are “overreacting,” to the alleged behavior. However, moves are being made to change the climate around sexual harassment. The #MeToo campaign is one way that women in the public eye and other victims of sexual harassment have increased the dialogue around this topic and have shown that it is not shameful to be a victim of sexual assault. While not everyone feels comfortable voicing their experiences, the #MeToo campaign has made space for solidarity with such victims. Other ways in which you can take action if a you or a friend has been a victim of sexual assault is reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org. It is also important to find a safe space. While there is no pressure to immediately share one’s thought or feelings on the experience, it is important to remind victims and bystanders of the situation that they are not alone, and that by seeking support can only help them in the long run.

We must raise our children differently

-Joy D.

We need to teach children, especially young boys, to not only listen and respect what their female peers say, but that every female voice is equal to their own. The current dialogue is different: we teach young girls on the playground that when a boy is mean to her and pulls her hair, that means he likes her. We see the trope in high school rom coms: the big, burly football player tickles the head cheerleader or lifts her into the air, even as she’s squealing and telling him to stop. It’s the classic story: boy meets girl, boy pursues girl until she says yes – or until she gets tired of repeating no. We’re told that it’s cute, funny even.

It isn’t.

The reason sexual assault is rampant in our society is the pervasive idea indoctrinated into us that what a woman says doesn’t matter: that when a woman says no, she’s not really saying no. When a woman expresses concern about unwanted advances, she’s told that she’s overreacting and to stop being so self-absorbed, as if the advances are something to be desired despite her clear discomfort. When self-proclaimed “nice guys” complain about women “leading them on” or “friendzoning” them, they get sympathy pats from their guy friends instead of explanations as to why women don’t owe them anything for existing. From the playground to the classroom to the workplace: we need to keep reinforcing the fact that what women say matters. Every word means something: especially the word “no.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month – A reminder series

Sexual Assault Awareness Month – A reminder series

editor’s note: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and our campaign wanted to amplify the voices of those whose experiences are most relevant to this issue. This is a serious issue that requires all of us to do our part. As a campaign, we are grateful for the stories we will get the chance to share.

From Nicole M.

Important Reminders for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

 In the current climate of the #metoo movement it appears that sexual assault and harassment are finally getting the attention they deserve after lying dormant and being considered a taboo topic of discussion. From mainstream news outlets to social media platforms, there is now an abundance of coverage ranging from survivor stories, perpetrators once viewed as pillars in their industries, and bold actions taken by large companies, communities, and government in response to these cases. While this progress remains encouraging and long overdue, there are certain victims whose voices still remain on the sidelines, struggling to be heard, believed, and worthy of appropriate action.

Women of color, women in poverty, and undocumented immigrants have been noticeably absent in the public discussion surrounding sexual assault and harassment. Statistics indicate that women of color, women in poverty, and undocumented immigrants are less likely to report incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence, or harassment due to various barriers including fear of deportation, cultural norms, anticipation of not being believed, and/or an enhanced sense of shame or guilt.

“The stakes are higher in a lot of instances for us than they are for a lot of other women,” said Tarana Burke, a black activist who founded the #MeToo movement on Twitter in 2006 to raise awareness around sexual violence. “That creates a dynamic where you have women of color who have to think a little bit differently about what it means for them to come forward in cases of sexual harassment.”*

For Latina women, speaking up after sexual assault can be daunting for a variety of cultural reasons, including a strong feeling of responsibility to keep the family together and an increased sense of shame and guilt. In the case of immigrant women there can be a heightened fear of law enforcement, risk of deportation, and breaking up their family. For women in poverty, there may also be a distrust of law enforcement, prohibitive court costs associated with filing charges for sexual violence, and the inability to take time off from work to report sexual violence to the police or attend a trial.

Women of color who do find the strength to come forward often face a much higher barrier to have their cases prosecuted. According to this report, while prosecutors generally try approximately 75% of sexual assault cases where the victim is a white woman, women of color see their cases brought to trial approximately 34% of the time.** These disheartening statistics can cause women of color in particular to continue underreporting these crimes and create a cycle of victimization, underreporting, and increased risk of future victimization.

It is imperative that within this #metoo and #TimesUp moment we pause to recognize the additional challenges many women of color, women in poverty, and immigrant women face when they experience sexual assault or harassment. With increased inclusion and sensitivity to those whose experiences differ from what we see reported by mainstream news outlets we can work together to encourage all women who experience sexual trauma to come forward and feel more confident reporting assault and harassment. ALL women deserve to be heard and NO woman deserves to be raped, sexually assaulted or harassed.

If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault please remember that you are not alone. There are resources to help:

RAINN: https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE

National Street Harassment Hotline: 855.897.5910