*forewarning: sensitive content*
Sexual assault doesn’t happen behind glass windows. Most of us don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to think about it, but we have to discuss the issue. The American Statistical Association and Royal Statistical Society report that 18.3% have experienced some form of rape. This is the unfortunate and grueling reality of contemporary American society. It can happen to anyone, especially when one least expects it. Students, as well as children and adults, exhibit a dramatized idea of both the victim and rapist. Public media consistently succeeds in portraying rape case as the victim’s fault and that she or he was “asking” for it. Others often blame the victim for having sex and subsequently playing the “victim card” against the perpetrator because he or she felt humiliated as a result of the sexual encounter. We need to collectively mature as a society and change our perception of rape and sexual violence.
Since the revival of the women’s liberation movement in the 1980s, many personal accounts have been published with regard to the epidemic of sexual violence in America. Rape is often mistakenly dubbed solely a women’s issue, although there have been male victims as well. Throughout the years, young girls begin to act passively while young boys begin to act aggressively. The problem emerges when children grow up and transplant these traits to their sexual roles, in which men believe that women feel the need and desire to be sexually dominated. Sexual assault occurs more frequently than the general public believes and sees through media outlets. Yes, there are extreme individuals with a serious psychopathic, antisocial personality (i.e. prolific abusers such as Ted Bundy or Robert Hansen). However, most rapists blend in fairly well within their own communities. This phenomenon most often occurs because of the rapist’s aforementioned ability to weaved him or herself seamlessly into the normalcy of the community, not arousing any real suspicion. Quite frankly, the denial of the wrongdoer makes it easy for onlookers to blame the victim, especially if she or he was intoxicated, works in a “sexual industry”, wears a provocative clothing, or exhibits a flirtatious behavior.
Firstly, I will dispel the myths of sexual assault.
- Rape does not always include penile penetration.
- Men can be victims too.
- Rape and arousal can simultaneously occur, but one does not disregard the other. The biological human response towards sex cannot be controlled nor can the internal response of fear. So yes, one’s body can physically express pleasure, however without consent, the mind feels helpless.
- Rape does not happen because of one’s uncontrollable sexual urge.
- Intoxication should not be an excuse for sexual assault because it takes away the integrity of the consent due to lack of logical reasoning and consciousness.
- If there is no physical resistance, that does not mean “yes.”
- If there is no “no”, that does not mean “yes.”
- Not all victims will act hysterically and show emotional distress.
- Not all victims will report the crime to the police, family, and friends.
- Rape does not have to occur in dark alleys and dangerous places “crawling” with predators.
I am able to list these 10 points because I, myself, have been assaulted. I didn’t realize it when I woke up the next morning, and began to recall fuzzy glimpses of the occurrence that happened 7 hours ago. I was passive about it, so I just went home with a terrible hangover. However, when I told my best friend about the encounter, he looked at me and said “That’s rape. You know that right? Are you okay?” I dismissed the issue and changed topics, but the word ‘rape’ continued to ring in my head. That was until several minutes later, I finally realized what had happened and I broke down in his arms. I replayed the scene in my head for two days, and all I did was cry and roll in bed. I felt the soreness from the way he grabbed my neck, and I remember exactly how I choked and struggled for air. I remember how he slapped my face, and aggressively grabbed and shoved me. I remember the way he talked to me in a degrading manner thinking that I liked it. However, I was much too scared to even resist because I knew that if I created a scene, everyone would wake up. It was too embarrassing for me to cause any attention for help because he and I have had history in the past. Therefore, I knew that we would easily be misunderstood for rekindling what was long gone if we were caught at that moment.
Here is where my reaction towards the situation breaks the trend of victims’ after-rape testimony. A few days later, I got over it to the point that I usually forget that it even happened, and I’m able to smile with my friends again. I am mentally and emotionally stable. I do not exhibit any fear towards men, however my caution in my consumption of alcohol and awareness of personal space has been drastically accentuated for obvious reasons. No, I’m not damaged. The assault does not make me any less of a human. I understand that some of my friends won’t know how and why I got over the issue very quickly. I do not wish bad things, consequences, and apology from my perpetrator. I am not angry nor depressed about what happened. If listeners learn that there was alcohol and no physical resistance involved, then some will think that you gave consent for it to happen. I’m not here to hear their opinions about if they think I was raped or not, I’m here to tell them that I was raped. Being unconscious, asleep, drunk, or not saying “yes” does not give the green light to perform any form of sexual action upon another. This is a kind of common sense that does not grow in gardens, which is why I am bringing this story to the public. Not everyone is educated upon the matter, so I do not hate him for thinking that there was consent between us that night. However, I am taking the initiative to locally (hopefully globally) expose this content… to raise awareness… to prevent sexual violence.
And, people, for the love of humanity, rape jokes aren’t cool. Keep that to yourself, and yourself only. It’s 2016. People will laugh about it only to lightheartedly end the topic because everyone probably felt a pang of uncomfortable guilt.
I write this article with dignity and pride because I am not a victim, I am a survivor. I conquered my story, and I wish to help others who are going through a similar situation. I am writing this to educate others about sexual assault and to add to the endless public testimonies of the different kinds of reactions that can be expressed. My best advice is to use the online resources available (hotlines, forums, online chats) or to turn to friends if you ever experience sexual assault. A good cry on a friendly shoulder may do the trick. Others may need to organize a 5-step process with a professional. Every human brain is unique, so everyone handles it differently. Remember that it isn’t your fault, and that the way you react to it is in your power. Readers, know that I am not seeking out consolation and pity, but rather I wish for you to comprehend that one may feel differently than another towards a sexual encounter. In conclusion, we need to talk about what happens behind those closed doors more often.