The vast majority of people fully understand consent, yet the idea is still skewed whether someone is a willing sexual partner. The spectrum of debate is still huge, with many stories permeating the press on a weekly basis: the sexual wrongdoings of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have generated important conversations alongside Kevin Spacey’s sexual misconduct and the allegations against comedian Louis C.K.
A 2013 rape case sparked the formation of a national movement in Sweden last year (buoyed by the #metoo movement) that set out to recognise that sex without consent is rape: three men were acquitted of raping a 15-year-old girl with a wine bottle when the courts ruled that the girl’s refusal to open her legs might have just been a sign of “shyness”.
Whilst there are many programmes that address sexual violence, too often they’re designed on teaching people how not to become a victim of sexual abuse, a strategy that grossly misrepresents the problems of sexual violence. Statistics tend to focus on the victims affected, which illustrates the magnitude of the problem (i.e. 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted (Crime Survey 2018)). But what if we said, for example, 1 in 10 men will sexually assault someone, and shifted our gaze to the perpetrators away from the victims?
Rape isn’t the only form of sexual abuse, but it’s arguably the most harrowing. If someone intentionally grabs or touches you in a sexual way that you don’t like, that’s indecent assault. Or if someone is unwantedly sexually suggestive, that’s sexual harassment.
There’s an on-going argument that, if the feelings of attraction are reciprocated by both parties, then suggestive sexual advances are classed as flirting, and if you want to meet someone you have to find a way to let them know you’re interested. If it’s not reciprocated it suddenly enters the realm of harassment.
It’s a blurred line for some people, but it’s mainly about doing it in the right environment, building rapport and trust with someone before sending a heavily innuendo-laden text message replete with ‘ooh errs’ and winking Emojis. That includes unsolicited dick pics. Unless asked for, nobody wants to see your custard pumper. Contrary to popular belief, it rarely gets anyone’s knickers wagging.
What you do with your body is entirely up to you, and it isn’t anyone’s right to assume (not even your partners) that it’s theirs for the taking. You may not be able to give consent if under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that you didn’t understand what was happening or if you were asleep.
Too many times, excuses are thrown about that the way a person was dressed or the way that they were acting was suggestive of wanting sexual contact. That isn’t the case. A person has a right to dress how they want and to change their mind about wanting sex, and it isn’t an enforceable contract that you’ve entered into. It can be revoked anytime.
There weren’t any injuries so he/she can’t have been raped. Nope, that’s not true. Though there may not be any physical signs that a person has been assaulted, the emotional injuries sustained are devastating. Rape victims are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 26 times more likely to abuse illegal drugs, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 4 times more likely to experience suicidal ideation. This dependency on substance coping mechanisms perpetuate the trauma and can serve as a masochistic reminder of the abuse suffered, affecting future relationships.
A man can’t rape his wife. Wrong again. According to Working Against Violence Inc. 1 in 7 women have been raped by their spouse. In 2017, a woman found a collection of videos on her husband’s phone that showed him raping her whilst asleep. He was subsequently jailed for nine years, a justifiable sentence considering the woman now has to live with the catastrophic loss of trust.
Only women get raped. That’s not the reality. An estimated 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, with more than 70,000 being sexually abused or assaulted. We won’t go into this one too much, as there’s an entire article dedicated to this coming up tomorrow.
Most rapes happen in dark lanes by strangers. You guessed it, this is incorrect. Victim Support’s own research shows that 88% of perpetrators were known to the victim, either as a partner, friend, family member or acquaintance. The more widely viewed perception that you’re more likely to be assaulted by a stranger whilst walking home after one too many cocktails isn’t the case.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault you can contact Victim Support on 679950 or [email protected] or the Victim Support UK 24 hour helpline on 0808 168911. Victim Support’s Welfare team are specifically trained to support those affected by sexual crimes. The crime does not have to have been recent. They support many people where the crime occurred years ago.