This is the fast-spreading phrase from Misia’s LiveJournal. Misia is a survivor of sexual violence—and the disturbing fact is that many, many others are as well.
Of the female friends I’ve had, I know about half have been the targets of sexual assault. I don’t know how many of the others might have been but did not tell me about it, either because they didn’t feel close enough to me or because they simply couldn’t talk about it, period. And the
thing that suprises me most about this is not the number of women who have experienced sexual violence of some sort, but the people who feel that this number must be exaggerated.
Last week Romilly wrote in a similar vein about the different worlds men and women live in. For the average woman above puberty, the possibility of rape or assault is a real one that we must be aware of. We must be alert when walking through a parking garage alone, or through a strange area of town, or when going to an event. Certainly we don’t spend every waking moment worrying that rapists are lurking behind every tree or dark doorway—but we are aware that we are potential targets. It’s not something most men think about, even though men have also been recipients of sexual assault.
I consider myself fortunate that I’ve never experienced this. I’ve had men make advances that were unwelcome, or crude comments I found belittling, and on occasion I have even felt that a man was behaving in a manner I found threatening and I was careful to stay with my group of
friends. I think most adult females have experienced some of this.
But I’ve never actually been assaulted, or even felt in serious danger of being assaulted. I don’t believe it’s because I’ve done anything better or worse than women who were. There are undoubtedly choices and behaviors that put some women more at risk than others, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that they were assaulted because of those behaviors. The friend Romilly refers to in her blog was sleeping at home in her own bed with the doors locked when her rapist broke in; that’s about as far away from a high-risk behavior as it’s possible to get.
I know women (yes, that is plural) who were assaulted as children. And if anyone wants to tell me a child could do something to deserve being sexually assaulted, I’ll kindly invite that person to check themselves in at the nearest euthanasia clinic; such a person doesn’t need to be
cluttering up my planet. They can get in line behind the ones who actually did the assaulting.
My point is, it can happen to anyone, and it does. We can try to make ourselves feel safer by saying such-and-so was doing something wrong that led to the attack—she was dressed provocatively, she was drunk at a party, she was flirting, dancing, breathing deeply, you name it. We do this so that we can pretend it couldn’t possibly happen to us, because we will keep to safe behaviors that don’t put us at risk. And some of us will be quite vehement in our belief that “she brought it on herself,” because otherwise we have to admit the frightening truth: it could happen to us. Any one of us, for no reason at all besides the fact that some inadequate dickhead wanted to be the boss of someone else for a while.
I think Misia has the right idea. People who have faced sexual violence need to know they are not alone, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
I’m Bertha. Many of my friends are survivors of sexual violence.
You are not the only one.
It was not your fault.
It does not define who you are.
No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.