I've been playing with this article for a little while now. I write, I rewrite and even when I'm not actively trying to put pen to paper, my mind is consumed with everything I wish I could say on this topic. The truth is, no words will ever be enough to encompass what I want to portray and no amount of time spent pondering on this situation will heal my wounds. Sometimes, it appears, the only option is to simply just to dive in - subside your worries and deepest set fears, and just write.
So it goes a little something like this: You experience the worst mental pain you have ever had to encounter in your life, you lose your confidence, your dignity and your trust in every thing around you. You literally find your rock bottom and you're unable to find a method of escaping such torture. Sounds awful enough in itself, right? Imagine this. The pain you are feeling is tainted, you feel like you're not worthy of the upset that is eating you alive because culture surrounding sexual assault is so flawed it allows the victim to feel like the guilty party, rather than the perpetrator. Because I should have protected myself, right?
It appears that in this society the victim is given the responsibility to simply not allow sexual assault to happen, to avoid the situation, to take precautions so that the perpetrator isn't given the ability to violate a person's body. But it is not a person's responsibility to live a sheltered existence in fear of another person abusing their body, it is the responsibility of every individual to have a respect for the bodies of others. Victim-blaming culture marginalized the individual, forcing them to feel at fault for something that is simply beyond their control, such a culture also restricts a persons ability to come forward about the assault they have encountered — in fear of not being taken seriously. Victim-blaming culture essentially enables the abuser to avoid accountability for their actions, because if a society isn't going to punish them for their actions — it's simply impossible to consider themselves feeling any remorse themselves.
It appears fundamentally impossible to call an end to sexual assault when incidents of sexual harassment are frequent and more importantly, overlooked. From a young age, women are taught to not dress in a certain way, to not speak to certain people, to not open themselves up to being susceptible to such abuse, to not drink too much alcohol, to not act 'provocatively.' But when are we going to start teaching the opposite, rather than teaching young women who are embracing their developing body to not dress 'provocatively,' why don't we teach the common practice of respecting a person and not sexualizing someone based on their choice of clothing. The just-world hypothesis, the belief that people deserve what happens to them, a form of action leading to consequence, reignites the conception that a woman is simply "asking for it." But when a colleague at work turned round to me and blamed me for 'hurting their neck,' due to the clothing I had been wearing — why was I made to feel dirty? Why am I constantly living in fear of how my body is being portrayed by another person? Why am I made to feel vulnerable when in the presence of other people?
There's no doubt that women have taken great strides in the past century in minimizing the inequality that appears so dominant in all forms of life, but are we really living if we are continually restricting ourselves so that we don't give a person the incentive to abuse us?
To the women out there that have been victim to any form of sexual assault, harassment — your bravery and strength is entirely admirable. It appears so under-appreciated that survivors of sexual assault seamlessly force themselves to function in daily life after their body and trust has been tainted by a person that never had such rights to their body or mind. Small achievements are still achievements and even when you're rubbing your body relentlessly to try and rid yourself of the 'dirty', it's so important to remember that he does not have any control over you. Your body is a temple and I just wish this society could perpetuate a culture whereby accountability is shifted from the victim to the abuser. You can be the change you wish to see in this world. Spread awareness. Do not be afraid to speak up if something feels wrong. Report it. Seek help. Do not blame yourself. Love yourself. Live.
Rape Crisis — 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30)
Victim Support — 0808 168 9111