Thoughts on Sexual Assault

Edited Fem 4, 2014 Author's Note: At the bottom of the essay, in addition to rape and assault hotlines and websites I have added links with resources about domestic violence and getting help. 

I have never been assaulted, if I had I think I’d be open about it. I’m open about so many things, but I don’t know. I hope you’ll trust me that I’m being honest about this. There are so many reasons to lie.

I just read an article in the Washington Post about how a Notre Dame alumna isn't going to be supporting ND in some game on January 7th because they protect and defend their football players who have been accused of rape and assault. You can read the article here. I find that the school protects accused assailants in the ways identified to be horribly disgusting. I’ve seen different image projects pass through tumblr where an assault victim has written what they were told to say on a piece of poster board. 

The above images are from Project Unbreakable, the exact posts: "I'm Going to Fuck You" "C'mon...Nobody has to know..." "Stop Struggling"

These statements are all victim shaming which is also telling these people that their peace of mind is valued to be less than that of their assailant. These women are actively being told that they are less important and that they’re lying about being assaulted. These are the things that feminists and people are and should be fighting against. Institutions that protect someone accused of something. Institutions that drag their feet to find the truth about what happened to a potential victim. Institutions that grill and attack the victim on the witness stand and turn a blind eye to the wildly changing story from the assailant.

What about the women who lie? So fucking what? If a woman lies the truth will come out. If a man lies the truth should not be protected. It isn’t everywhere. I really did feel proud that at ODU they protect women. We take all of October, every year, to educate on sexual assault. There are little seminars and speakers against it. ODU has a sizable women’s center that works with women who have been assaulted to help them the best they can. ODU has persecuted at least two accused football players for sexual assault because the understand that college football is fleeting for most, the fallout from sexual assault isn’t. My university tries and when it fails and an assault happens they do what they can afterward to help. We are a little, moderately known public university in south eastern Virginia. We have a new football team that apparently has been doing quite well and bringing us notoriety. Our other major sports, before we had football (which has been around for only 3 years) were women’s basketball, men’s soccer and I think woman’s field hockey or lacrosse  I’m not a sports person, I don’t really care, but I do think it’s a big and fantastic thing that ODU works for victims as much as they do and that some of our biggest draws in sports were our women’s teams. That’s respect.

Thinking about what I learned about “why” sexual assault happened as a kid, in the glorious rainbow filled 90s that had the best cartoons, I remember kids in elementary or middle school saying that fat and ugly chicks should “ just lay back and enjoy it, it was the only way they were going to have sex”. That is an incredibly ugly, hateful and poorly educated sentiment and it’s horrifying that children thought this about assault. It’s showing a lack of understanding about how adults go after sex to begin with, but also showing how little respect women had that they should accept and expect to have no choice in how they were going have sex. It’s also an interesting dichotomy of adulthood where the hateful statement is that “she deserved it for dressing how she was/being where she was/being alone etc”.  That dehumanizes a woman in one of the worse ways imaginable and it’s saying that men have no control over their sexual urges. Both of these faulty statements take the responsibility of the assault away from the assailant and put it on the victim. That is never right. If we lived in a country where we were truly past ‘feminism’ and it wasn’t a thing that people worked for and identified with as a social statement then falsehoods like those would never be uttered. There wouldn’t be an assumed statement that the victim of sexual assault deserved it to any extent. There wouldn’t be the heaping of responsibility onto women on whether or not a sexual experience was going to happen or not. If we lived in a truly post feminist world victim blaming, shaming and quieting wouldn’t happen. Victims of assault would not be afraid to point out the accused. Hell, if we lived in a truly post feminist world and everyone was humanist wanted equality for everyone, maybe sexual assault wouldn’t happen. Maybe no one would be pressured into a situation they didn’t want to be in and the party that wanted a sexual experience would back off and find a willing partner or handle it on their own.

Both of those statements involve an unhealthy relationship and understand of sex what all parties involved are expected. The first one shows that men will fuck anything and they don’t care about what their partner wants. That’s incredibly selfish. The second says that but it’s also saying that men have a right to sex whenever they want it and that women need to be punished for showing too much skin. The second statement says that women are just walking sex toys for any interested penis and if every penis is interested then her vagina is theirs for the taking. But really what’s worst about both of these is that it’s reducing all factors involved in a sexual experience to a dehumanizing base where men have no control over themselves, effectively ever if they will equally rape a ‘fat/ugly girl’ and a ‘scantily clad hot girl’. This thinking also says that women have no say over their bodies and that they exist solely for the pleasure of men and that women have no interest in sex. 

That’s all just me thinking about an entirely unwanted sexual situation and not considering other ways for people to get to a sexual situation and maybe wanting it for a while then changing their minds. That’s allowed. Either party can change their mind and any time. I never wrote out any hypothetical situations that could lead to an unwanted sexual situation because I don’t think it’s necessary that I make those up when there are real accounts of assault that can be found and read online.

I have kept to the more common male attacking female situation but understand that men do have control over their faculties, as much as they jokingly deny it, and they can be assaulted. The body will react to stimulus that the brain doesn’t approve of, that is not consent for either sex. Women can be sexual predators and that is never right. It doesn't happen or isn’t reported as often but it can happen. And after that, there is unwanted homosexual assault that happens. There is never a right time to blame a victim for their proclivities, their fetish, their sex, gender, age, race, orientation, fashion choices and especially their sobriety.

There are many resources online for information on what to do in instances of sexual assault and my favorite anti-assault program I’ve ever heard that works to educate young men that assault is wrong and they should use their strength to protect women and make them feel safe and not to abuse them.

I know I used 'assault' more often than 'rape' and polite euphemisms don't really make things better, but this was a time I felt more comfortable with the euphemism.

Reference and Help
More from Project Unbreakable here
If you are struggling, RAINN has a free, confidential, 24/7 sexual assault hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE(4673). or online -
Similar to Project Unbreakable, It Happens Here
Laurie Penny sharing her story of assault
Societal Attitudes About Rape - Stats and numbers
Men Can Stop Rape - I mentioned this for a moment in the last paragraph above. This organization works with young men to educate them on not raping people, and not just on avoiding getting raped. That is one of the most important and biggest things that can be done to be a rape deterrent 
Title IX - the cause of many of the assault problems on colleges
Sexual Assault Prevention Tips
An old essay of mine: American Sex Culture

Edit: Feb 4, 2014

Verizon Wireless: Hopeline -- Karen Ogden informed me about this program through Verizon which works to get help to women, people though, in abusive situations. By proving phones to people who are in danger but have no safe way of getting help, hopefully more victims can break out of he dangerous life they had and get to safety.

Helpguide - This site has information from psychologists for getting help with depression, anxiety, abuse, family issues, weight change, and others. Here for Abused Women - Here for Abused Men

National Guide for locating women's shelters

Oprah's Domestic violence resources

Shelter for Help in Emergency

Safe Horizon - various types of abuse assistance

National domestic violence hotline - help understand if you're being abused and how to get help and move to a safer situation.