In our last article, we discussed how much we request, often demand, from survivors of sexual violence. Why have you not spoken out? Why did you speak out? Why are you running this man/woman’s life? Why is it taking you so long to get past this? Why are you not speaking to your rapist? Society often demands that we get over our traumas quickly and when it comes to sexual trauma there is almost a demand that you look past, move on, get over the trauma that you have suffered. Those closest to you find the topic difficult to listen to and even more difficult to have to deal with, so the go-to way to help survivors of sexual violence is to tell them get over it, forget about it, or ask what they did to cause themselves to be violated. Victims are also questioned about their perception of the scenario and whether it was a misunderstanding.
Surviving sexual trauma leaves the individual with so many scars, some physical many psychological, and having no support only makes it worse. This week I thought we would discuss Sexual Violence a little more in depth. As always, as we continue on with the article, there are parts that can be triggering, there are parts that may cause you to have flashbacks, there are parts that may make you feel anxious or afraid. Take a moment to remind yourself that in this moment, right now as you are reading the article, you are safe, your memories are resurfacing. Take some deep breaths, then decide whether you should take a moment and leave the article or whether you are able to continue on. The knowledge in the articles will always be here. Part of your journey now is learning how to listen to yourself, learning to take cues from your body about what it needs.
Violence against women is an epidemic plaguing the world. It has been a problem women have had to guard against for far too many years. Women have been for centuries and are currently being raped, tortured, molested, sold, beaten, and murdered constantly. Many choose the path of “look how far women have come”, but I will ask that when you make that statement you also realize that in many different professions they are not paid equally, and they are not treated as equals. Laws are still being enacted and amended that dictate how women are allowed to care for their bodies. Women are still constantly made to feel like they are not doing enough if they are homemakers, and if they have careers outside of the home, they are to be those professionals and still solely take care for their homes. What society would like is for women to believe that they have been granted such change that they should not be asking for changes. There is a problem when we live in a society that doesn’t respect women. The issue of sexual violence isn’t new neither is our reaction to it which is getting more and more callous.
We live in a society that often turns a blind eye to cases of sexual violence often blaming the victim for the crime committed against them. We live in a society where men are afraid to share their stories for fear of being ridiculed for being weak or for having their sexuality placed under the microscope. We live in a society where women are expected to know upfront that they should guard against their male & female friends who may choose to violate them, they are expected to know upfront that their teachers, priests, doctors, dentists, coaches, uncles, brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts, sisters are going to violate them and prepare for that.
It seems that so many have become willing to condone and accept that women will be ill-treated and discarded at the discretion of the male gender. We hear the constant incidents of rape, assault, murder, threats, and we are still able to blame the survivor. What did you do to cause this? How did you lead him on? How many more victims do we have to add to the current statistics before we acknowledge the problem and take action to change?
Violent acts against women have been a part of every historical period. Have we become desensitized to the crimes being committed against women? Or are we comfortable being part of a world where women, their bodies, their needs and their boundaries don’t matter? It appears that although times have changed, the way the woman is viewed and treated has not. Condoning the actions of a rapist, molester, batterer makes you an accessory to the crime. Looking the other way makes you as guilty as the one committing the crime. We have to let go of the common perspective of “it is not my business”. It is your business. Rapists, molesters, and batterers don’t have just one victim. Today it may not be you but sadly it may only be a matter of time. I don’t say this to be negative or callous but to be realistic as approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 14 men in the USA have reported being victims of sexual violence. (National Sexual Violence Resource Center). Sadly, we don’t have as comprehensive statistics in the Caribbean but we can all appreciate that while the USA is far larger, our stats in St Lucia without a doubt will be alarming. We hear the stories of fathers, brothers, and uncles sexually assaulting their daughters and impregnating them. We hear of the coaches, teachers and priests and nannies sexually assaulting our boys. What does it take to acknowledge the issue and then to plan to actively address it? Without a doubt, in our current climate sexual and domestic violence will be on the rise. Everyone is confined to their homes for extended periods of time. Where a victim had the relief of being at school or work to get away from their abuser, that is no longer an option. I don’t doubt that there are many things requiring our attention, let us not think that sexual and domestic violence isn’t worthy of the time or energy.
Our human right is to be safe and secure in our bodies. Our human duty is to protect those around us from being used, ill-treated and abused. We expect that someone would aid us if we were being attacked so why are we not willing to do the same for others? Why is it so easy to blame the victim and assume the assault was her/his fault? Why are we not asking her abuser what made him believe it was ok to force himself onto someone who said no, laid still and didn’t react, fought back, said no, please stop? When did it become ok to force and threaten someone into submission? Why is it that no one ever asks what made the rapist, molester, or batterer believe that he had a right to violate someone else’s body? Why is his character not brought into question? It is baffling that after a sexual assault, a survivor comes forth, and they would be blamed for causing this heinous act against themselves. I will continue to reiterate that no one asks to be sexually violated – no one asks to be raped.
PROSAF – POSITIVE REACTIONS OVER SECRETS AND FEARS SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN