Sexual assault is common, with incidents usually occurring between people that know each other. While there’s a big difference between being attacked by a stranger and having consent violated by a partner, the pain and degradation that results is much the same.
When the most common questions after an assault like this are, “why didn’t you fight back?” or “why didn’t you report it right away?” victims can be made to feel interrogated, demeaned, and further victimized. I hope that the following story can explain a little more about why people aren’t always capable of doing so.
TRIGGER WARNING: Sexuality, Coarse Language, Sexual Assault
An overabundance of tequila at a house party leads a girl to require help getting to her bedroom at 4 in the morning. All she wants to do is sleep it off and wait for the world to stop moving. A guy whose advances she shot down prior to this night helps her into bed, then decides to join her.
He runs his hands over her body, grabbing and pulling, possessive and full of need. She’s awake, but remains passive. She doesn’t want him. She longs for the guy who couldn’t make it to the party, and thinks of him as this one pulls her pants off. He’s rough. She has been lonely. She feels muddled and lost, barely conscious, and some of the touching feels comforting for a moment. She gasps when he rams a finger inside her, and he takes this as acceptance. He takes this as a yes.
But then he’s too rough. He bites her throat. She pushes him away and says “stop.” He falls back into the shadows of the room where she can no longer see him and she drifts off. Then suddenly again, his hands are where they shouldn’t be. His mouth claims her, his fingers are inside of her, and she pushes him away again. She’s fading further every time. He tells her that she likes it. She is confused, feeling obligated to let him continue because she asked for help in getting to bed. She didn’t throw him out. It’s her fault this is happening. She hopes that if she plays dead, he’ll lose interest and go away. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn that sexy top all night. Maybe he wouldn’t have followed her if she had been less insistent that he make it to the party. He tells her over and over how amazing and beautiful she is.
She remembers the last time she turned him down; she had to tell him no repeatedly, and left the room just to make sure he knew she wasn’t interested. But this time, she can hardly move.
She is sickened as he tries to get her to come. He pulls her hair and bites her again, leaving a mark on her throat that will show for days. It hurts enough for her to push him away. She says no again, and he backs away, finally accepting that she’s not responding. But as a parting gesture of affection, he delves a hand inside her bra, and bites her breast.
He asks her if she regrets it. She whispers “no” because she’s been trained to always be nice, to never hurt another person’s feelings. She justifies it in her own mind. At least it was someone who really liked her. She had been feeling lonely, and he was drunk. He couldn’t have realized how he was making her feel.
He couldn’t have possibly known that climbing into bed with a lonely drunk girl, grabbing at her and pulling her pants off while she laid there passively, would be in bad taste. It could never have occurred to him to ask her if she wanted him, or to stop when she didn’t respond, to listen when she said no. And then he might have felt justified when she said she didn’t regret it, even though she hadn’t had time to think it through with a clear head.
And the next day when she decides to talk to him about it, she finds herself treading lightly and trying hard not to hurt his feelings. She doesn’t realize that it is she who has been violated. He broke all the rules. He should have known better.
And yet, she’s been trained not to recognize it for what it was. Because it wasn’t black and white, she wasn’t passed out cold, he was a friend and not a wild rapist running the streets. He didn’t roofie her drink. She even made noises when he touched her.
Because she wasn’t blatantly victimized, beaten and assaulted, she believes that her experience is less valid than that of someone who had it worse. She believes that she doesn’t have a right to be angry at him, to tell everyone she knows to stay away from him, to disrupt friendships due to his actions. She believes she is alone and must take the blame for what happened.
She is wrong.
If it feels wrong, it IS wrong. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, you are not alone. There is help available.
In Ontario, May is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month to bring attention to the devastating impact sexual assault has on survivors. It is also a time to discuss how to prevent this violence from happening and how we can better support survivors. There is still a long way to go to end the stigma of being a sexual assault survivor and to help survivors have easy access to much needed services such as counselling, proper medical attention, and legal support. You can help raise awareness by wearing purple and having these conversations about how to support survivors and stop the violence.
Written for you, by therapists.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, and lifestyle: Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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