According to a study called “Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse,” many sexual assaults aren’t reported because the victims see sexual assault as something normal. Sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University composed the study after analyzing interviews from the Children’s Advocacy Center of 100 girls ages three to 17.
Her analysis revealed that a majority of the girls found sexual violence against them to be normal and that they experience some form of sexual violence everyday. 13-year-old Patricia said in her interview, “They grab you, touch your butt and try to, like, touch you in the front, and run away, but it’s okay, I mean . . . I never think it’s a big thing because they do it to everyone.”
You guys, this is not okay. The study also reveals that many girls justify sexual violence under the belief that men just can’t help it. 13-year-old Carla said, “He told me . . . he was like, ‘I’m gonna come over to your house and rape you.’ And then, I know he’s just joking, but that can be a little weird to hear.” Hlavka explains that Carla normalizes this threat by calling it weird and trivializes it by saying her harasser is joking. Carla never told anyone this was happening because it was such a common occurrence so she thought it was normal.
That is not normal. Being told you’re going to be raped by a classmate everyday is NOT normal. Being harassed like that is sexual violence.
What exactly counts as sexual violence? Sexual violence, which includes rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, incest, unwanted or inappropriate sexual contact (like groping), sexual harassment, exposure, stalking and cyberstalking, threats, peeping and statutory rape, is NOT normal.
The report also shows that these girls “did not want to make a ‘big deal’ out of their experiences and rarely reported these incidents to persons in authority.” They think that being touched or being forced to perform oral sex does not count as sexual assault.
They also don’t want to be labeled as sluts or whores and seem to be skeptical of other girls who have been assaulted. 15-year-old Jackie spoke about her friend who reported her sexual assault by a mutual friend, “I don’t know why she’s making such a big deal out of it anyway. He does it to everyone, so I say, well, ‘Just back off,’ I say ‘No’—so she should if she don’t want it, but she probably wants it anyway.”
Hlavka says that women are seen to be “gatekeepers” of sexual activity and that girls are being blamed for not establishing their boundaries enough. Saying “No” is supposed to be enough, but many girls don’t believe that to be the case.
Y’all, this has to stop. Sexual violence should never be considered normal or just something that happens in everyday life. Maybe it’s thought of as normal because it is happening so often, but it should always be a big deal.
It breaks my heart knowing that there are so many instances of sexual violence going unreported because a girl is scared to be labeled a slut for an assault on her body or because she thinks it’s just the way things are in this world. Sexual violence is not normal. The sooner we start treating sexual violence like it’s not normal, the sooner we can fix this problem.
What do you think about this study? Do you think sexual violence is normal? Tell us in the comments!