When will we start taking sexual abuse seriously?
Updated: Aug 8, 2018
Before I start this, if you’re reading and you’ve experienced sexual abuse of any sort—I’m so, so sorry. I don’t know if reading that or this blog does anything for you, but just know that I care for you and you are not alone.
Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Louis C.K. Not long ago, Bill Cosby and Dr. Luke. These are all well-known names in news of people who are accused of sexually abusing others. There’s a fundamental problem with the fact that sexual abuse is as prevalent as it is. These cases are just on the news, but what about the everyday person being abused as well. The child in their basement or the waiter who goes to work knowing that their boss is going to smack their ass and hoping that it stops there. Furthermore, what about everyone who hasn’t told anyone what happened? What does all this mean? When will we start taking sexual abuse seriously?
Sadly, I don’t know.
Here’s a story for you. I interned at a college campus Women and Gender Center in graduate school. Sexual abuse and rape were very relevant topics and one of the most common reasons why students sought therapy. One day, while venting to my supervisor about a case, she shared some seriously startling information. By no means is this a direct quote (sorry this doesn’t adequately illustrate your brilliance, Darci), but she said something around the lines of: Take one male student and put the desire to take whatever he wants in mind. This same student goes to a house party, meets someone, they flirt, and he takes advantage of them. The next weekend, take that same student who is on a high from the last party, put him at a bar where he meets another new person and does it all over again. There are 12 weeks in a semester, so if that student goes out every weekend, that means 12 people may be sexually abused by the same person. That’s a minimum of 24 people in a school year.
Let that sit in for a second.
Now imagine the numbers for people who are not in college and those who are just hanging out with a friend or family member without expecting anything this terrible to happen.
Back to my original question—what does this all mean?
It means stopping sexual abuse starts with us, those who have been abused and advocates.
Advocates must continue knocking down this gendered way of viewing society and others. No more insisting that little boys “man up” and stop teaching little girls to be agreeable at all costs. In fact, stop labeling all children with boy and girl expectations and let them live. This idea that we have to prove ourselves as powerful, patriarchal figures in order to be important is one of many reasons behind sexual abuse. You can’t take what you want, being rejected is okay, and you’re as powerless as the next person because we’re all human.
If you’ve been sexually abused, please tell someone. Literally anyone. After experiencing something as traumatic as sexual abuse, going through it alone makes it that much worse. If you feel comfortable, report what happened. While reporting is a scary process that might make you feel embarrassed or ashamed, it could save someone else. With that male student in the example I just provided, if the fourth person reports, that might just save the remaining 20. Not to mention, you have nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about. Above all though, tell your story. Sharing your story can give you a new sense of control over what happened and teaches others. Being sexually abused does not define you and we all can grow from every individual story.
Need to talk about your own story? Here’s the hotline number to the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673. Don’t hesitate to send me a few lines either. <3
Thanks for the picture, Alex Boyd at Unsplash.com!