This week's Sex Stories We Love describes the man reasons why women don't report sexual assault. Just some. There are too many for words.
We can only imagine how many stories go untold and how much trauma has occurred over the course of human history because of sexual assault. This past year of the #MeToo movement and now the stories coming out through #WhyIDidntReport have been a true watershed of the horrendous way women have been treated. The dam has a trickle in it. The stories are coming out about sexual assault - as well as the cold, hard facts about what happens when stories are told. How many go unheard, unbelieved, and, sadly, unconvicted. Then the President of the United States blatantly and publicly questions why women don't tell their stories, we see how widespread the problem is. It is true, and should not be forgotten, that men are also victims of sexual assault and that their stories must also be heard. However, the dominating version of the story is a man assaulting a woman and that narrative plays out with frightening frequency. It has to stop.
Educators Must Lead
One of the many reasons girls and women do not report is because they're taught that their voice does not matter in almost every respect, not just sexual assault. Family, friends, church leaders, legislators, and more... We're all complicit in the patriarchal denial of women's voices. One of the more devastating voices that shuts down women's sexual assault stories comes from educators. Even when a child was brave enough to share her trauma and report an assault, a principal determined that she would shut that story down and deny that child's voice. How can that student ever trust someone in that role again? Why would she ever want to report if, please forbid, she is ever assaulted again? This is an egregious (and yet not surprising) story that surely echoes the stories many others do not tell.
Laws Must Change
Of course, one of the aspects of our society that's most affected by our patriarchal view of women's bodies is our legal system. As new circumstances and cases emerge across jurisdictions, our gross misinterpretation of the need to rule over the bodies of women emerged.
Sex crime laws are weak and ineffective. They prioritize the assailant and not the victim. A recent case in Alaska saw a man walk away pretty much free after being convicted of choking a woman to unconsciousness and then masturbating on her to fulfill a fantasy. And he only got time for choking her because masturbating on someone is not a crime. Here, the judge gave the convicted man a pat on the head and a free pass because he voluntarily enrolled in sex offender therapy...which wasn't a court requirement. There are calls to change the sex assault law in Alaska and to remove the judge who oversaw the case. We can only hope.
Knowing Trans Stories
While there's been a greater acknowledgement that there are countless stories out there and while there is hope that action will change the culture that allows sexual assault, there's one group of people who continue to be subjected to a different level of trauma when they they tell their stories. Transgender people are also victims of sexual assault. They also have to deal with longstanding biases, transphobia of the police, and transphobia found in society in general. There are stories from all over the world about mistreatment of trans people who report their sexual assault to police. There are also stories of trans people being horrifically murdered during sexual assault. Trans people must be included in the changes that must be made.
Shut Down When Speaking Up
One of the key points that needs to be stressed in sex education is that of consent. One reason that girls, teens, and women do not report their sexual assault is that they're unsure whether or not something wrong actually occurred. This is no fault to the victim. They were raised in a patriarch that determined their bodies aren't theirs. Children are manipulated. Teens are coerced. Adults are made to believe that provided sex is just part of the deal for a relationship. If the concept of consent is brought to the front, hopefully more women will see they are NEVER obligated to provide sex.
Consent is one of the core ideas taught in the debated Ontario sex ed curriculum. To voice their disapproval of that curriculum rolling back, students across the province protected by walking out of class. To my knowledge, this student is the only one to come forward with her story of being threatened with disciplinary action over participating. Are we surprised she's female?
Please Read More
Finally, please read more stories from sexual assault victims...if you can. It is the ONLY way to understand this trauma and help with moving forward.