Existing while being a woman: Sexual Assault

Hello people who are reading this! Continuing on my series about my experience as a young woman, I will be talking about sexual assault.

In the mall behind those colour-coded mall-maps, in buses on their overhead posters, in Facebook chain-shares, I am always made aware about the scary reality about sexual assault. The latest one I’ve noticed features balloons like the sort you give at baby showers or to people in hospitals. These balloons say something along the lines of “Congratulations it’s a girl” and “She has a 50% chance of being physically or sexually assaulted in her life time.” The ad in question is from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Another psa-type Facebook-share pronounced that one quarter of women in the U.S. will be victims of attempted or completed rape during their lifetimes.I personally know many victims of sexual assault. I read websites like xojane where women tell their stories of survival. It’s glaring reality in my life.

As a woman, I live in a world where I have to be careful not the get sexually assaulted. I get nervous when I walk around after dark. I am incredibly distrustful at parties and I am super vigilant about the location of any drink I may be consuming at a social event (club or otherwise.) I even get anxious feelings when on my way to hang out with guy friends I know and trust. Because did know that sexual assaults are most often perpetrated by someone you know? According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) 73% of sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers, 38% of rapists are friends or acquaintances and 21% are intimates. HOW ALARMED ARE YOU RIGHT NOW? I’M ALARMED.

Even more alarming in my opinion is the whole “blame the victim” mentality that exists. Look to the recent victims of gang rape in India or the high-school-aged girls in the states repeatedly slut-shamed for being victims of sexual assault. The recent article posted by Emily Yoffe tellin college girls not to drink in order to avoid sexual assault (which received VERY mixed reviews.) Look, I understand that as a young woman I should probably be extra-cautious. I personally make the choice to watch my drink at parties, to avoid walking home late at night as much as humanly possible, to check-in with girlfriends when we go out. HOWEVER, if I do all these things or I don’t do all these things – sexual assault is not MY fault. Even if a girl gets black out drunk at a party, it is NOT her fault she got raped. She was not asking for it, she did not “get what was coming to her.” PERIOD. Honestly, it’s sad people are still unclear about this.

So not only do I have to contend with the paralyzing fear of being sexually assaulted whenever I leave my house BUT I have to worry that there is a chance I’ll be blamed, slut-shamed, and disbelieved if it ever happened.

Here are some posts from my favourite website (xojane) on sexual assault, for some perspective.

For the last time, only rapists are responsible for rape.

Why a young girl cannot consent to sex with an adult man.

A woman talking about her own rape (trigger warning: I cried while reading this.)

How to treat a rape survivor