Monday, March 5, 2012

What I wish people understood about women who've been sexually assaulted

I haven't updated since October?! My bad!

As a support worker for survivors of sexual violence, a feminist academic and a friend to many womyn (and therefore, survivors!), I find myself having the same conversations over and over.

[TRIGGER WARNING for discussions of sexual assault... obviously.]

So here it is.

I wish people understood that women who've been sexually assaulted:

1- Are not fabergé eggs:
Womyn who've been sexually assaulted are not inherently fragile and ready to break(down) at any minute. Of course, the time when they start to heal is not an ideal time and they're probably not feeling their best. But if at least 1 in 4 womyn will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and humankind has existed for centuries and centuries, clearly womyn have found ways to cope and continue living their lives.

It's problematic at best and sexist at its worse to assume that womyn who've been sexually assaulted are forever 'broken' and should therefore be treated like children.

2- Are not going to react in the ways you expect or hope: The amount of people who've told me that their disclosure of sexual assault was dismissed because they didn't 'act like someone who has just been assaulted' is downright depressing. When someone is assaulted, they might pull a CSI victim and break down in tears, they might bury it deep and deny it, they might speak about it non-stop, they might never speak of it again. They might abstain from all sexual activity, they might sleep with anything that moves, they might quit their job or go back to work the next day. They might drink/smoke it away, they might become macrobiotic vegans.

It is absolutely absurd that we throw out all logic about the uniqueness of people when it comes to sexual assault responses.

3- Owe you absolutely nothing: Just because I've told you about my experience of trauma, that doesn't mean that I now owe you every detail of my assault(s), every detail of my therapy session, etc. To pry for more information is both inappropriate and fucking creepy.

4- Want their power back: Sexual assault is not about sex; it's about power. To assume that men sexually assault because they can't control their sexual urges it not only illogical but also offensive to men.

And so when someone is sexually assaulted, they are dealing with the fact that their power, bodily integrity and agency have been violated. And so telling them what they need to do and insisting you know what's best is not only annoying but also contributing to their disempowerment. If I've learned anything in my years as a support worker, it's that the vast majority of womyn who've been sexually assaulted and who seek out help are looking for validation, resources and the space to vent. They know what's best for them and the course of action they should take, they just want you to validate their choices and provide them with any necessary resource information.

5- Don't need your judgment: They don't need you to question why they accepted a ride with that guy, why they dressed that way, why they drank so much, why they went back to him, why they didn't report, why they did report, why they waited weeks to tell you, why they didn't self-defense classes, why they didn't leave the party, why they invited him inside their apartment, etc.

Womyn who've been sexually assaulted don't need your judgment: Society is doing that part just fine, thanks.


krissthesexyatheist said...

the times when I do hear about "it", i usually cry.


Bill Oates said...

We need to understand that sexual assault is simply an unimaginable horror. Our only response to the victim should be genuine love and support - even if it means just holding her hand and keeping our mouths shut.

sewa mobil said...

Very nice, thanks for the information.

iheariseeilearn said...

Well said. !!! Agreed.

Kristina D said...

I love this! Thank you.

I wanted to share a video with you, I think you'll appreciate where it's coming from as much as I do.

Here it is: