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How Confused About Sexual Violence Are You?

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PROSAF — Surviving Sexual Abuse In The Caribbean By Souyenne Hackshaw

IN last week’s article we discussed, the equality we deserve as women, as survivors, as people who are an integral part of this world. This week I would like to discuss the obvious confusion that seems to surround sexual violence. Maybe clarifying what confuses you will help create an environment where ignorance and lack of action surrounding sexual violence no longer exist. We will aim to clear up the confusion about what sexual violence is and who is to blame for the actions of sexual violence.

Yes, there is someone to blame, this is not a blameless crime nor is it a crime with shared blame between the perpetrator and the victim. As always, as we continue on with the article, there are things that may trigger you. There are aspects of this article that may cause flashbacks. There are parts that may cause buried or forgotten memories to resurface. Your body may begin to react, by exhibiting sweaty palms, an increase in heart rate, trouble breathing, you may start feeling dizzy or disoriented. Should you start feeling any of the aforementioned, please stop.

The article isn’t going anywhere, but what is most important is to ensure that you are taking care of you, listening to your body and what it is communicating. As you continue on your healing journey, learning to trust and listen to your body is important and necessary. So, should you at any point whilst reading the article begin to feel triggered, stop, remind yourself that you are not in danger, that you are not in the situation. Breathe, try to calm down, reach out to someone you trust for support.

So, there seems to be some confusion surrounding what is classified as sexual violence, who is to be held accountable and whether the victim should or could have done something to prevent their assault. So, let’s clear things up so we can no longer claim ignorance.

What is sexual assault? “The term Sexual Assault refers to sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without explicit consent from the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include: 1) Attempted rape, 1) fondling or unwanted sexual touching, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body, 3) forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, 4) penetrating the victim’s body, also known as rape. (rainn.org)”

Let’s further break this down. 1) Attempted rape is a rape that wasn’t successful but the intention was to commit a rape. 2) Fondling or unwanted touching is self-explanatory. 3) Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, again self-explanatory and 4) penetrating the victim’s body – committing the act of rape.

We accuse the victim of basically orchestrating their sexual assault, they would have instructed their assailant to chase, force, physically hurt them (and this is the general case for all sexual assault). We prefer to believe that the victim, who was coerced still wanted to be sexually violated, that the victim who was drunk should be blamed for being sexually assaulted because they, like many of us, have gone out and had one too many drinks.

Would you have thought it wasn’t sexual assault if while drinking and partying one night your friend took that as an invitation to sexually assault you? Would it have been you fault? NO, it would not have, you have a right like we all do, to feel safe and secure in your body. You have a right not to be blamed for the actions of anyone else. Do we blame someone who got hit by a drunk driver for being on the road? No, we blame the individual who drank and then drove. So why do we treat survivors of sexual violence differently? Why do we expect them to police the behaviours of others?

Why do we accept the excuse that because a victim didn’t scream Stop or NO that they wanted to be sexually violated? Should you be held at gun point and robbed and unable to say anything would it be ok to say that you wanted to be robbed? Let’s be honest, when faced with a traumatic experience, our bodies tend to shut down, we tend not to be able to verbalize a response, but that in other situations seems acceptable and understandable except when you are being sexually assaulted. Should I fail not to resist, would that be a yes to being sexually assaulted? I mean, what happens when you don’t resist the robber, are you saying YES PLEASE ROB ME, TAKE ALL MY PERSONAL BELONGINGS OFF OF MY HANDS? No, you are not, and we understand again, that based on what you are going through, you are unable to resist, afraid to resist or believe that by resisting, you are effectively guaranteeing your death. If I fail to say NO, is that a YES? Again, a robber has you standing in front of them, and they say, “Give me everything you have!” You don’t say NO, does that mean you want to give them all your personal belongings? We can’t have one set of rules for certain victims and then another for other victims.

We blame the way they dress. I wear a short dress or long pants, or a carnival costume and what I am saying? “Please, please sexually assault me?” Are we seriously blaming women for the actions of men? Are you seriously saying that I need to restrict the clothing I wear to stop someone else from sexually assaulting me? What? Are men incapable of controlling themselves? For arguments sake, let’s say my clothing caused you, a weak individual with no self control to sexually assault me, what then is the excuse when I am fully covered and when I have no skin showing? What then is the excuse for the sexual violation? Oh wait, no matter what, it’s my fault for being born a female, who without a doubt is a seductress.

We project an ideology that anything that occurs with respect to sexual assault is the fault of the woman. Oh, wait and am I only expected to wear only full brief underwear because wearing boy shorts, thongs, swimwear and lingerie is me planning in advance for my sexual assault? Ensuring that when I am assaulted that I wear underwear that will excite my rapist who will then say I wore this to seduce him and make him sexually violate me.

Lastly, let’s discuss body language, we all seem to understand it when we are on the receiving end, when it matters to us that someone understand our body language is saying leave me alone, no, stop. But we seem incapable of taking that same knowledge and applying it when someone else’s body language is saying no, leave me alone, stop, not interested. We blame the victim for their rapist not being able to read body language when in truth the rapist is disregarding their victims body language. Ignorance around sexual violence means you condone it, you are excusing the rapist and their actions. You are telling me, the female victim to guard my behaviour and that of everyone on the planet in order to protect myself. Should I fail, then my rape is my fault.

So back to my original question, truly how confused about sexual violence are you, how much of it is your decision to not care, to not get involved, to not get invested, to refuse to believe that people you know are capable of hurting other people? How long do you plan on pretending that as a survivor of sexual violence it was my fault that I was, 1) incapable of knowing I would be raped, 2) of preventing my rape and 3) that I was incapable of getting over this very inconsequential thing that happened to me? (I mean after all it was only a violation of the body and mind).

How long do I really need to get over it? How long do I need to get past the fact that the people I thought I could trust not only betrayed my trust by violating me, but also got angry at me for starting my story, being affected by the crime and wanting to seek justice and healing for myself. NO, SEXUAL ASSAULT, is not, was not, will not ever be your fault. You did nothing to cause the assault and will not be blamed for it.

As this week’s article comes to an end, I would like to remind you of a couple of things. 1) there is no shame in listening to what your body needs. If it says stop, then stop. Trauma has changed you. You are working towards healing which takes time and patience. Celebrate the small victories, it will take time. 2) You are a survivor of sexual violence, a crime was committed against you, you did nothing wrong, you didn’t cause it, you are not to blame. You could not have changed it or prevented it. Ignorance comes in all shapes and sizes, so when someone walks up to you and blames you or tries to silence you for the crime committed against you, bid them farewell and walk away. They will not be of help to you or your journey. You need support and empathy, anyone in your life not offering that should be escorted out. 3) To my fellow survivors, I want you to remember that you have survived a traumatic experience, but that experience doesn’t define you. I want you to remember that you are strong, brave, intelligent, resilient and worthy of being loved. You are not alone. Know we are here to listen and help. We are all walking a similar path, but we all understand on some level your pain. You are not alone. I know it often feels that way. But know you are not. We are here to listen. Call if you need to vent, if you need company to just be on the phone. We are here to help. Text, email, call, you are not alone. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you were violated. You don’t have to keep secrets you don’t want to keep to protect anyone. You don’t have to let anyone into your life who doesn’t understand or support you. Should you want to discuss or ask a specific question don’t hesitate to send it in. Please don’t give up. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to enjoy the holidays, you deserve to decide who you let into your life and how much. Our contact info is below:

Yours Sincerely,
Souyenne Dathorne (724-9991), Velika Lawrence – Xylaw (723-6466), Miguelle James
Email: ssaitco@hotmail.com – thepowerofone_v@hotmail.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org (Up & Running)

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