Reports say that 20 to 25 percent of women and girls will be the victim of some form of sexual assault. That’s one in four or one in five. It could be you, it could be your best friend, your sister, or your cool aunt. The scary thing is, the number may be even higher than that because so many assaults are unreported, leaving victims to deal with it on their own and leaving perpetrators to roam the streets and claim more victims. This makes Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2012′s theme all the more important: It’s time to talk about it.
Why are girls afraid to speak up? They feel ashamed, they’re traumatized and just want to put it behind them, they blame themselves, or they think people won’t believe them.
Here’s the thing, girls: It is never your fault! Wearing a skirt does not mean you were asking for it. Flirting with a guy at a party doesn’t obligate you to sleep with him. Passing out doesn’t mean you consented. Drinking and doing drugs can blur your judgment and make consent issues very, very dangerous–but even if you’re under the influence, no is no, and legally an intoxicated person cannot give consent. Even saying yes at first, then telling the guy no and having him not listen is considered non-consensual.
Fair enough, but you’re probably thinking: How does talking help? Well, first of all, talking about sexual assault can help survivors realize they’re not alone, and can encourage other girls and women to come forward to report attacks.
Talking about physical boundaries and consent in relationships can help, too, since How do you talk about consent with the guy you like? Isn’t that an awkward conversation that can kinda kill the mood? Here’s the thing: If the guy isn’t a scumbag, it won’t bother him to talk things out with you. Voicing consent lets each of you know exactly what the other wants, so you’re both more likely to have an enjoyable experience–it’s hard to stay in the moment when you’re so worried about where his hands are wandering, and he’s probably afraid of getting slapped if he tests your limits (and, ladies, he should be).
Talking things out can prevent so many problems from occurring–and they can help remedy issues that have already gone down. If partners talk openly about sex and what they are and aren’t willing to do, we can diminish sexual violence. Similarly, if victims of sexual violence feel like they’re not alone, they will be more likely to speak up, which can help healing and prevent their attackers from striking again.
Are you recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month? What are you doing to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Let us know in the comments.