So Whose Fault is Sexual Assault?
by Maddie Santman | Class of 2021 | Mar. 1, 2018
Sex. It’s everywhere. It’s glamorized in American culture. It’s depicted in film, books, music, and anywhere else that it will catch someone’s eye. It’s talked about to the point where it makes me uncomfortable just to turn on my TV. But do you know what isn’t talked about enough? Sexual assault.
And that makes me even more uncomfortable.
No one wants to hear about men and women who have been harassed in such a vulnerable way. No one wants to watch others struggle through mental disorders, either. But, sexual assault during childhood can lead to mental health issues in adults and teens. No one wants to- but we have to. We have to start talking about mental illness. We have to start talking about sexual assault. We have to start talking about sex, in general. People need to understand how to answer the questions we ask ourselves, and the questions others may ask of us.
“Don’t you like me?”
When we enter into romantic relationships, an important conversation to have right away is what you are and aren’t comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable with sexually engaging with this person, or if you choose to wait until marriage for any other reason, it is VERY important to share this with your partner right away. If the other person doesn’t respect your decision, it should affect how you choose to go forward. Likewise, if your partner says something similar, you should respect their choice.
“Everyone’s doing it.”
We can blame this one on pop culture. Favorite TV shows such as Riverdale, The Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl depict that younger teenagers really are “doing it”. Television presents a warped sense of reality, by poorly portraying realistic relationships or legitimate issues. When Riverdale’s “Dark Betty” made an appearance, representing mental illness, she dealt with it in very unhealthy, sexual ways. Reminder: she’s supposed to
be a sophomore in high school. Maybe everyone is “doing it” on TV, but TV is not reality. Hollywood should not be pressuring teenagers to act more sexually, especially since sexual consent is such a grey area on the screen.
“It’s not that big of a deal.”
This one’s easy. Maybe some of the people around you are ready, but you may not be or don’t want to be. That’s OK. If it’s a big deal to you, then it IS a big deal. If you’re uncomfortable, you aren’t “too sensitive” and you definitely aren’t acting “too young”. This can go along with personal boundaries as well. If when you do it (or anything else related to it) is important to you and IS a big deal, you should let your partner know. Thank you, next!
“She was asking for it.”
“Stop asking people’s clothes if they want to have sex with you, and start asking people,” said poet Anna Binkovitz. AND SHE IS RIGHT! What someone is wearing doesn’t give anyone consent - only the person wearing them does. It’s not the clothes that say yes... only people can do that. No one is ever “asking for it”. Believing that people are opening up the “why” questions. Instead of: “why were you wearing that?”, “why were you alone with that boy?”, or “why did you go to that party?” It should be: “why are rape victims held responsible because of what they were wearing?” As author Jesse Prout said in her book I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, “Rape is not a punishment for poor judgment.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, one in four girls and one six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. But, we can change this. We can stand up for those who can’t, and we can step in when others don’t. We have the power that can make a difference. Our actions, our decisions, and our mindsets affect not only ourselves but others too. Change starts and ends with us.