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I could see the fear in her eye, and could feel the pain in her trembling hands. I could sense her discomfort when she talked about the night. I had never known, and never would have guessed, that something happened to her at a party with kids I knew from my school. She told me first. She only told me. She spoke to me about how she can not be in a room with a stranger, or how she feels that part of her died that night. She explained that hugs didn’t feel good anymore, they felt intrusive. She explained that she won’t stay in a room with a male teacher if the other students leave. Every part of her life, she explained, has been changed. She wasn’t the same girl anymore, and she blamed herself for it. Even contemplating suicide, like many victims often do, seemed better than living with the memories. She was too afraid to talk to her parents, because she had drank a little the night of the incident; and too afraid to tell her friends, because they thought that the guy was cool. She didn’t trust anyone anymore, not even her old best guy friends. She had known him; they had been friends in junior high. She knew him…
Her story changed me. I would no longer wait for the issue of sexual assault to approach me. I would educate myself about it. I was going to help. I didn’t want to see anyone else have to feel the way my friend did. I joined the Sexual Assault Response Team, and began to fight back. The issue of sexual assault needs to be addressed openly so that everyone changes their current paradigms, or perspectives. People that believe that sexual assault can be prevented, is the victim’s responsibility, or is just miscommunication, are allowing perpetrators too much freedom. Sexual assault is always the perpetrators decision, thus never being the victim’s responsibility, or decision. This is a simple concept, but let me show you how presently we are not acting this way.
It is all too likely that each one of us knows the victim of a sexual assault. One in four Colorado women and one in fourteen Colorado men have been the victim of a completed or attempted sexual assault.
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"Sexual Assault is Never the Victim’s Fault." 123HelpMe.com. 07 Apr 2020
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When girls go to parties nowadays, they are “careful.” They have all heard the stories of girls being taken advantage of, or raped, or drugged. The girls at parties today, know of the risk that is involved and believe they have the knowledge they need to avoid the situation. They believe that they can prevent being sexually assaulted. But, can they really prevent being sexually targeted with today’s perpetrators? Do they know how to avoid every way that it can happen, every night, every minute, and every second of every day? Do they know that they are not only at risk at a party?
Date rape drugs are one of the most steadily increasing illegal drugs. They are relatively easy and cheap to create in a home. In most cases, these drugs are used on the college campuses. On college campuses, rape drugs are becoming more and more disguised. Cases have been filed where a tip of a cigarette has had the drug dripped on it. Or, breath mints in liquid form or pill form have also tested positive for rape drugs. It can be on a piece of gum, in a drink, or on something you eat. Even if you watch someone open your drink for you, they still had the opportunity to put the drug in your drink with a sly technique of hide and slip. The means in which these drugs are concocted and used is disgraceful. They are dangerous chemicals that can cause a whole range of effects. These drugs can cause a drowsy, unconscious reaction as soon as 15 minutes after consumption, or up to two hours later. The first symptom is usually a feeling of heightened drunkenness. Then before unconsciousness: a victim may begin to feel dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. The victim awakes in a room, or other place, not knowing what has happened. These drugs are taking new forms each day, and are likely to have been at a college party that you have attended.
Popular belief is part of our everyday society, and stereotypes are part of our popular beliefs. It is likely to overhear someone speaking about how another girl may deserve the negative attention she receives when she wears a short skirt and spaghetti top. Saying, “She is practically asking for it,” or”she just wants attention.” These statements create judgment that inadvertently condones sexual assault. If restated in other words, “If she were sexually assaulted, it would be mostly her fault,” or”she is advertising to be raped.” That is not how most people feel, but that is how victim blaming begins. People believe that sexual assault can be prevented, but that is not true. A person can reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted, but no one can prevent sexual assault. I will also address the main characteristic of an attempted assault later in the essay, because it is not what a person is wearing as much as what vulnerabilities they may have.
Sexual assault requires two people. If a victim was: in a room, striped naked, and drunk, but there was no perpetrator, then there could be no assault. Why is this important to point out? Sexual assault is one of the only crimes that the society as a whole uses victim blaming. Victim blaming is the way that we react to an incident of sexual assault in regard to the victim. Often times, parents, siblings, and friends will point the finger and say” I told you not to drink at the party,” or “didn’t you see it coming?” In the same respect, we do not victim blame a charity donator if they get mugged. We don’t say to the charitable donor, “You have a history of giving money away. You were wearing expensive clothes, a gold watch, and nice shoes. Sir, don’t you see how you were practically advertising to be mugged.” Or we don’t tell a store clerk at a gas station, who hands money away all day to people, that it doesn’t seem odd for someone to come in and force her to give them money. Not as long as that person has watched the clerk give money away before. It sounds ridiculous to compare the two, but if you think about the grueling effects of victim blaming in the field of sexual assault, it is not different from the examples above. No one ever asks to be sexually assaulted. No one is portraying that message by the clothes they wear, or by drinking. Victim blaming is the best outcome for the perpetrator, because it is keeping the focus on the victim. If the victim takes the chance to tell someone, and that someone reacts as a victim blamer, then the victim will most likely not tell anyone else. She will keep the horrible experience within, and struggle. While all of this is going on, there is a perpetrator that is preparing to pick another vulnerable victim.
Believing that sexual assault can’t happen to you, and is something that only happens in other schools or places, is wrong. We have learned that sexual assault cannot be controlled, because we can’t control the actions of others. However, it is possible to reduce your risks of an incident. Many people do not know the statistics about sexual assault, thus they don’t fully understand the best way to protect themselves. This is another reason why sexual assault is so prevalent.
In more than 90% of all sexual assaults the perpetrator is an acquaintance. Society stereotypes a rapist as: a sneaky, out of the bush jumping, in a dark alley, attack. But, most sexual assaults have been premeditated. So, the perpetrator is someone who knows the victim, knows where they will be, and what they will be doing to some degree. More than half of all sexual assaults happen near the home of the victim or a friend of the victim. These places are popular places for perpetrators because the victim is less careful in such a comfortable place, in other words, they are more vulnerable.
Perpetrators rape as a form of power. About half of the perpetrators caught have had a girlfriend or wife that consents to sexual activity, but they raped to fulfill their other needs. Most often, rape is a way of showing power for a perpetrator. The most common characteristic of sexual assaults is that the perpetrator finds a vulnerable victim. Vulnerability can be shown in many different respects. Vulnerability may be because of a date rape drug, alcohol, or imbalance of power. Imbalance of power may either be physically, mentally, or based on age. A physical power imbalance is either just based on size, or strength usually. If someone is drunk and can barely walk, then there is an obvious physical advantage along with a mental power imbalance due to the alcohol. A teacher has the mental, physical in most cases, and age power imbalances.
There are a million reasons why the victim should never feel blamed for a sexual assault, but the way in which society treats the issues warrants many habits that promote victim blaming. This is awful, and has a harsh effect on the statistics involved with reporting and apprehending of perpetrators. We must support our victims and encourage the reporting of perpetrators because that is the best way of stopping this sad condition in people.