So I figured, piece of cake. We deal with sexual assault / abuse related things, some of our community partners do a lot of work with this very theme – no problem. Keyboard in hand I sit down to write and I figure we’ll stick to the theme and talk about prevention. And – nothing.
I look up the stats and sure enough, not only are females much more likely to be victims of a sexual offense, girls between the ages of 15 to 24 have even a higher chance of being sexually assaulted. Perfect. I mean, I’ve raised a bunch of teenage girls, I can do this. And then, nothing.
And then I got thinking, how exactly does one prevent a sexual assault? I’m not sure I can actually answer that question. If I think of all the girls I know, what would I tell them to help prevent this from happening? Would I tell them that maybe they shouldn’t wear so much makeup because you know that might give people the wrong idea? Personally, for me, bad words come to mind when I think about someone telling me that I shouldn’t wear my lipstick anymore because I like wearing lipstick. Besides, that would imply that sexual assault is about sexual attraction and it’s not actually. It’s about power and control.
So then I thought, would I tell them to be more careful about how they’re dressed? Make sure your skirt isn’t too short or your top too revealing. I have worked hard for these shoulders thankyouverymuch and I kind of resent the thought that I should have to cover them up just because of something someone else might do. Besides, that gives the impression that guys aren’t capable of exercising self control which is ridiculous because both males and females are absolutely capable of exercising self control when they choose to. It’s only when we allow them that excuse that we see behaviour blamed on a lack of control.
Would I tell them to make sure they don’t go out alone – or at night? I’ve traveled around parts of Canada and other regions in the world by myself. How is that wrong? Why should I stop going out for sushi with my book by myself because I’ll be alone and will likely be going home in the dark. Besides, that gives the impression that it’s the victim’s responsibility to stop the assault from happening in the first place when the victim has absolutely no responsibility in this what-so-ever. It is truly the choice of the assailant.
Maybe I should tell them to be careful if they decide to have a drink of alcohol, because you know, they’re putting themselves at risk. Hell no! Honey, bad words are the least of your worries if you think you’re taking that glass of red wine out of my hand! Why should alcohol be reserved for males only and girls are “taking a chance” if they happen to drink? That’s kind of like those old days, back in dinosaur land when girls weren’t allowed to take a shop class and boys weren’t allowed to take cooking. Besides, that implies that if you do drink something some day and are the victim of sexual assault, well, you deserved it and that is WRONG on so many levels.
I truly don’t know the answer when it comes to how to prevent people from hurting other people. I do know from many years of working in a mental health field that our current strategy of trying to fix the problem behaviour after the assault has happened is not necessarily very successful and that makes me wonder if maybe we need to take a more fundamental look at how we perceive behaviour and intervention. There is never one solitary explanation for behaviour any more than there is ever one answer for why someone chose to do something. Often, prevention is one piece of a very large puzzle and while not every piece of the puzzle is called “prevention” (or treatment or cure or magic wand therapy), they all have a place and they all work better together simultaneously versus the try and fail approach that’s common in most sectors.
One thing is clear; our perception and attitudes and actions speak volumes about our society and how we treat those who have been hurt. When people can look at the video of a young woman, passed out and being carried around like a rag doll and shared as a sex toy while she’s passed out and then offer sympathy for the poor souls who are so sorry they got caught while at the same time eluding that the young girl needs to shoulder some responsibility because she was after all, drinking too much, we are doing something wrong. Every time we do that we take a step backwards. No more.