Trigger warning: This is a post about sexual assault and could be triggering for anyone who has experienced it.
If you have experienced sexual assault or rape let me start by saying I am so sorry. This should never happen. You are not alone. If you need to talk with someone or need support there is a local agency that can help you. The crisis line for the sexual assault center here in Rome is 706-802-0580, if you are not local call the national line here: 800.656.HOPE (4673)
Autonomy is a human right. It is your right male or female, gay or straight, no matter your ethnicity, economic status, marital status or age.
What it is? Your right to be independent and self-rule. To be free from outside control or influence. You have autonomy over your body. It’s your right.
Maybe you have heard about it happening in a dark alleyway, or an abandoned parking lot late at night, or if you go somewhere you shouldn’t be. Let’s talk about when it happens when you are with someone you like, have a crush on, or are dating or just someone you are familiar with and trust.
Sexual assault and rape often happen when we are with someone familiar to us. These cases are often made more complicated by that fact, but I don’t think it has to be.
When it happens with someone we know It can be more difficult for the targeted person to speak up because they fear hurting the other person’s reputation, they share the same friends and support network, and because they know that some people will not believe them. There is a special kind of difficulty that arises when assault happens by the hands of someone we trust. Someone we know other people like, admire or even see as a leader.
Maybe they are the captain of the football team, maybe they are a coach, teacher or someone else in a leadership position. Maybe this is a person you have had a crush on.
Maybe it happens in the halls between classes, after a study session, at a party or a friend’s house.
Sometimes people make the subject confusing by asking questions of the victim like “Did you flirt with them?” “Did they kiss you? Did you kiss them back?” or “What did you think was going to happen if you got alone with them?” These kinds of questions while they may not seem like it are victim blaming. Victim blaming is putting more responsibility on the victim’s shoulders rather than the perpetrator of the assault.
At the end of the day the most important and only question really is “Did you say no?” or “was this against your will?”
Some people are under the misguided opinion that if you have flirted with someone, or are dating someone that this boundary of “no” becomes blurry. This is FALSE.
Just because you have kissed or had sex with someone before doesn’t mean this same person can demand it of you on other occasions. No matter how much you have flirted, no matter how many times you have kissed, or how much you have been okay with in that past doesn’t negate any future “no.” The right to have autonomy over your body every moment is yours.
When you say no, it doesn’t mean you are prude, or that you have lead someone on. It’s your right to say no. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” or declining someone’s advances. Autonomy- having the right to control what happens to your own body. It’s your right. So if you feel like saying no voice it. Say it.
For the rest of my life no matter how old I am I have autonomy over my own body. It’s the right of all human beings. Which again means…
No is simple.
And it should only take you saying it once in a situation for it to be respected.
I just read a really amazing novel Beartown that tells the story of someone who is sexually assaulted by someone she knows. It reveals the challenges and obstacles that victims face, and how we as society victim blame and normalize behaviors that cross the line. If you are 17 or older I really recommend reading this book.
Here is a powerful excerpts from the novel:
“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much lass terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.
So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts to confirm what we want to believe—comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanize our enemy. There are many ways of doing that, but none is easier than taking her name away from her.
So when night comes and the truths spread, no one types “Maya” on their cell phone or computer in Beartown, they type “M.” Or “the young woman.” Or “the slut” No one talks about “the rape” they all talk about “the allegation.” or “the lie” It starts with “nothing happened” moves on to “and if anything did happen it was voluntary, escalates to “and if it wasn’t voluntary, she only has herself to blame: what did she think was going to happen if she got drunk and went into his room with him?” It starts with “she wanted it” and ends with “she deserved it.”
Excerpt from Beartown by Fredrick Bakcmen