In the last few weeks, we have seen parliament and government members or workers speak out about alleged sexual assaults, misogamy, and inappropriate behaviours they have experienced. Reading the news articles and comments from the media and other users was heartbreaking to read or hear. I scrolled through article posts and saw comments such as; “They are attention-seeking or want money“, “They never reported it, it didn’t happen”, or” What did she think was going to happen?”. It is evident that there is still a lot of stigma and victim-blaming attitudes regarding Sexual Assault that has negative impacts on victims and survivors telling their stories or experiences. As a survivor of sexual assault, I decided to challenge a few common stigmas or victim-blaming attitudes I have heard or seen recently.
First, let’s discuss What is sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act or behaviours that are threatening, forced, unwanted or violent in which someone has not freely given consent. Sexual assault may include forced sexual contact, unwanted fondling, touching, rape etc. Rape is another word used for a sexual assault that involves unwanted penetration (oral, anal or vaginal).
Sexual Assault Stigma’s or Myths
Sexual assault and rape can only happen to people from Low-socioeconomic status or background:
- 1 in 6 women and 1in 25 men have experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15 in Australia. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, or class.
If you didn’t say no, then it is not rape or Sexual Assault:
- If there is an absence of no, then there is no consent. Consent occurs when someone says yes freely without being forced, pressured or coerced. Consent can not be given when someone is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Please see an attached video that explains consent.
You can prevent sexual assault; don’t wear revealing clothing, don’t walk home late at night or walk alone.
- 1 in 6 women and 1in 25 men have experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15 in Australia.
- People are more likely to be assaulted by people they know than strangers. This could be family members, friends, work colleagues etc. The only way to prevent sexual assault is for perpetrators to stop assaulting people.
If you are in a relationship, then it is not rape or Sexual Assault:
- Being in a relationship doesn’t give you the right to someone or their body. Consent still needs to be provided in a romantic or intimate relationship. No one has the right to have sex with you or your body regardless if you are dating, friends with benefits, casual sex or married.
Men or boys can’t be sexually assaulted, and women can’t be perpetrators:
- Men and boys can be victims of sexual assault; statistic shows that men and boys are less likely to speak out about their experience due to the stigma associated with male sexual assault.
- Women can also be perpetrators of sexual assault. Statistic report that most men are less likely to speak out about traumatic experiences.
If it wasn’t reported, it didn’t happen:
- Sexual assault is a traumatic experience; we all react differently to trauma; some people may suppress their experience or feelings as a coping mechanism, resulting in them taking a while to speak about the assault or not disclosing the assault. Most victims and survivors may not report due to shame, stigma or potential repercussions associated with reporting.
People only say they were sexually assaulted for attention or personal gain:
- Speaking out about sexual assault takes a lot of courage. Dismissing someone’s traumatic experience can be harmful to victims and survivors. False reports of sexual assaults are rare. However, a report maybe is labelled as false when it was unsubstantiated. Unfortunately, not all perpetrators will be arrested or charged.
How you can support someone who has experienced sexual assault:
- Don’t judge them or dismiss their feelings or experiences
- Show empathy and offer support
- Believe them and tell them their experiences are valid
- Help them to be aware of available support services
- Give them control; avoid telling them what to do.
- Encourage counselling
- Be patient with them
Support services for sexual Assault in Australia :
If you have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment and feel you would like to speak to someone for support or information, 1800RESPECT (Phone: 1800 737 732) can provide counselling 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you are feeling unsafe right now, call 000.
Support Services for New Zealand:
Safe to Talk sexual harm Healthline 0800 044 334 or Webchat 24/7 in New Zealand
Suppose you would like to talk to someone. In that case, we have a therapist and wellness directory that aims to empower women, minority and marginalised groups as they embark on their healing or wellness journey.