In the world we live in it has been normalized for some to constantly look over their shoulder, some to worry “will a person try to follow me?”, some cover up or else “it’s their fault”, this “some” refers to women. Every 73 seconds in America alone someone is sexually assaulted. Well, what is sexual assault? Sexual violence is “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, and other non-contact forms”.
An investigation by UN Women UK released on March 10th, 2021 found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed, meaning that most of the UK female population has experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space. The study also found that a further 96% of women did not report the harassment because they thought it would not change anything.
Women are taught that “boys will be boys” a phrase that comes from the 1500s when women were OWNED by men. It’s typically used to explain rowdy or naughty behavior—things like jumping in mud puddles, roughhousing, and raising Cain. It’s also, unfortunately, used to explain away things like sexual assault allegations and other serious crimes. It doesn’t hold individuals responsible for their behavior and choices but rather infers all males are preprogrammed to act in such ways.
Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. After a sexual assault, survivors may feel their bodies are not really their own. Survivors often report feelings such as shame, terror, and guilt. Many blame themselves for the assault.
Due to the trauma and negative emotions linked to sexual abuse, survivors may be at risk for mental health conditions. Survivors of sexual abuse may develop:
Depression: The loss of bodily autonomy is often difficult to cope with. It can create feelings of hopelessness or despair. It may also reduce one’s sense of self-worth. Depressive feelings may be mild and fleeting, or they can be intense and long-lasting.Anxiety: The loss of bodily autonomy can also cause severe anxiety. Survivors may fear the attack could happen again. Some may experience panic attacks. Others may develop agoraphobia and become afraid to leave their homes. In some cases, a survivor may develop a chronic fear of the type of person who harmed them. Someone who was raped by a tall, fair-haired man with blue eyes may instinctively dislike, mistrust, or fear all men who match that description.Posttraumatic stress (PTSD): Someone who survived sexual assault may experience intense memories of the abuse. In some cases, flashbacks may be so disruptive they cause a survivor to lose track of surroundings. A person may also develop a related condition called complex posttraumatic stress (C-PTSD). C-PTSD yields a chronic fear of abandonment in addition to symptoms of traditional PTSD. Some people with C-PTSD also experience personality disruptions.Personality disruptions: Sexual abuse can sometimes result in personality disruptions such as borderline personality. The behavior linked with personality disruptions could actually be an adaption to abuse. For instance, a characteristic of borderline personality is a fear of abandonment. That fear might not be adaptive in adulthood. Yet avoiding abandonment might have protected someone from sexual abuse as a child.Attachment issues: Survivors may find it challenging to form healthy attachments with others. This is especially true among children who have been abused. Adults who were abused as children may have insecure attachment patterns. They could struggle with intimacy or be too eager to form close attachments.Addiction: Research suggests abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to use drugs. Drugs and alcohol can help numb the pain of abuse. Yet substance abuse often leads to the development of different concerns.
Sexual abuse does not only leave psychological scars. It can also have long-lasting health consequences.
A person who is assaulted may sustain bruises and cuts. They could also have more severe injuries such as knife wounds, broken bones, and damaged genitals. Others may develop chronic pain without an obvious physical cause.
Some survivors experience sexual dysfunction and fertility issues. Others may develop sexually transmitted infections. Contrary to myth, it is possible for a sexual assault to result in pregnancy. In cases where a child becomes pregnant, giving birth may be physically dangerous.
What really causes rape? Saying “She was asking for it! Look at the way she was dressed”, isn’t a reason for someone else’s actions. Instead, some causes are linked here Causes of sexual violence.
I am a survivor of sexual assault, I mean everyone is in a way. Once listening to a woman talk about being raped was eye opening. how she went to a party, got blackout drunk, hit her head, and her friends made her lie down. Once she was alone, a boy she knew came in and raped her. This rape resulted in a pregnacy, which lead to a scared 18-year-old girl making the choice of “can I keep this baby?”
Another story is of a victim from a girl at her best friend’s step-grandparents house. While there, her best friend’s grandpa (let’s call him Bob) came into her room and attempted to make a move on her. Bob was over double her age with a wife, and she was wearing plain old jeans and a t-shirt. Even still someone found a way to tell her she was asking for it.
Take my story, 12-year-old Addison just wanted to fit in, so if her friends were doing something, of course, she was too. One night just like many others I was at my best friend’s house, we were under the influence (which was my first mistake) and my old best friend’s older brother’s friend, whom I had spent time with before, came and wrapped his arm around me. One thing led to another, and that night I joined the 97%. Even though I was not raped I was still sexually assaulted, but society h /as made it seem like that isn’t enough. “Oh well, others have had worse”… I was 12 and he was 16.
I think the worst part about it was the mental war going on in my mind, people who I thought were friends became foe, so I lived in neglect. My neglect turned into numbness, I had isolated myself from my friends, constantly battled with my parents, and constantly lied.
But this isn’t my sob story. This is just another piece of my life that is now a part of the 1 in 3 women who are sexually assaulted. This week in March marks the day I say my life went “downhill”. Now, I don’t see it that way, my year has been spent on moving forward. Yes, there have been setbacks, times of weakness, but all they’ve done is help me grow. Nonetheless, I share my story here because it’s one thing to see a statistic, but knowing and hearing a survivor instead of just the people who are on social media makes a big impact on your point of view.