1 in 3 women in the world today are likely to experience sexual assault during their lifetime.
Several studies collated by the World Bank reveal an ongoing global pandemic of gender-based violence or violence against women. Around 35% of women worldwide have experienced both sexual and non-sexual violence from intimate partners, friends, family members, and strangers.
Women and girls around the world are targets of heinous sexual assaults, deeply entrenched sexist behaviors, and harmful cultural practices.
In India, a survey by ActionAid found that 44% of the women surveyed have been groped in public. Meanwhile, anywhere there are vulnerable children, sexual exploitation seems to be a pressing issue.
Following recent allegations of sexual misconduct among NGO and UN Peacekeepers staff, charity welfare organization Save the Children has introduced humanitarian passports as a way to ensure those sex offenders are wholly dismissed and cannot just disappear back into the global welfare system.
Even among organizations supposedly dedicated to protecting people’s welfare in conflict-ridden areas, women and girls are at risk.
Despite these facts, all hope is not lost. The global #MeToo movement has exposed a particularly unnerving characteristic of sexual assault – it’s everywhere. More importantly, the viral nature of the movement has ignited conversations on what should be done to help survivors.
One of the most vital points raised by this development is how to address an all-too-common factor that justifies, enables, and normalizes the global culture of violence against women: victim-blaming.
If you have been sexually assaulted in the past, what are the things you should stop blaming yourself for?
4 Things You Should Stop Blaming Yourself For After Surviving Sexual Assault
1. The Assault Itself
Fairly common phrases that victims hear when they come forward as assault survivors include “Why did you put yourself in that situation?” or “What were you wearing?” or even worse, “Why didn’t you say no?” These are all classic examples of Victim Blaming 101.
Gender inequality has perturbed society long enough that women are always assumed to be partly responsible for being assaulted. As a manifestation of male entitlement, victim-blaming serves to shift the burden of accountability from the perpetrator to the survivor.
It’s important to remember that assaults happen because there was an intent and an assailant, not because of what the victim wore, what they did, or how they responded.
2. Not Fighting Back
One of the traumas that survivors have to endure is the idea that they could have fought back to prevent the assault. They tend to blame themselves for freezing or not knowing how to react during the incident.
It’s easy to fall under the assumption that not struggling physically means the assault was consensual. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In order to protect itself from further assault, the body might decide to freeze instead of fight – a natural response to fear that should never be blamed on the sexual assault victim.
3. Being Aroused
One of the key causes of shame in victims is feeling sexually aroused or even experiencing orgasm during the assault. A Legal Support for Women and Children report highlights that the feeling of arousal during assault has often been used by lawyers to silence victims, by investigators to shame survivors, and by spectators to invalidate the ordeal.
However, the fact is that natural bodily functions can bypass cognitive ability, and may sometimes use lubrication to protect the body from further injuries.
4. Not Coming Forward Sooner
In the heat of the #MeToo drive, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport has been getting more attention as well. It took off after some men derided victims for waiting years or even decades to come forward about being assaulted.
What many don’t understand is that sexual assault and abuse have life-altering costs to the victims – coming forward could mean risking their reputation, straining family relations, or jeopardizing their career.
Considering the potential repercussions for the victims, any amount of time between the assault and them coming forward should in no way invalidate their ordeal.
The culture of gender inequality and violence takes its toll on the victim, directly and indirectly, every day after the assault. Ceasing to blame yourself for things that you’re not accountable for is the first step towards healing as a sexual assault survivor.
Written By: Melissa Jordan
Melissa is a 29-year-old sports enthusiast who enjoys painting, walking, and photography. Melissa is generous, exciting, and loves exploring and taking beautiful photos of new and interesting places she visits.