It is bad enough that the victims of sexual attacks are wounded mentally and physically. But some also carry an additional burden of wondering if one of the reasons this dreadful thing happened to them is because they did something wrong.
The attacker is the person who did wrong
People are raped because the rapist chooses to rape. That is the only reason, there is no other cause. While we can all understand the temptation down a rabbit hole of what ifs, the reason this happened was the malice of the perpetrator.
A bad decision is not the cause of an attack
People make bad decisions, it happens, we are human. We get into cars with people we shouldn’t, we do put ourselves in risky situations and, horrifically sometimes we are attacked.
But a bad decision is not a cause. What takes place is another person(s) acts on that bad decision and crosses the line into criminal behavior.
Powerlessness is a shocking and hugely traumatic event
True powerlessness is psychologically deeply astounding. Our brains go into protection mode and make attempts to normalize the situation. Believing that we are somehow the ones who ‘caused’ this gives us a sense of control over what happened. Even though the control is an illusion, the idea we had some is how we go about rationalizing it.
A person who sexually assaults someone else is a criminal
Looking at the statistics of attack perpetrators confirms that the attackers intended an attack. 85% of attacks are committed by an acquaintance, someone they know. Sometimes even a former partner who perhaps has trouble understanding the concept of consent.
Only 28% of attacks are committed by a stranger, we can comprehend they have taken advantage of a bad decision on the part of the victim. 93% of juvenile victims know their attacker and it is hard to imagine even a bad decision in these circumstances.
We are experiencing a seismic shift in the way we and the media view and report sexual attacks. But it was not always this way. In the past the crimes which were reported we always against women, (even though young college-age men are at risk, as are underage boys).
Female victims who were brave enough to go into court to testify were vilified and subjected to any number of insinuations hoping to blame the victim. What a defense attorney was trying to do was suggest that the victim had by some act conferred consent.
Now, at long last, the courts are more inclined to agree with the idea no means no. Perhaps, more importantly, there is plenty of education around which strongly delivers the message.
The social media campaign comparing asking someone if they would like a cup of tea was humorous but was successful in getting the message across. If someone says no, then there is no consent and to force or coerce is criminal.
#MeToo has made a difference, long may it continue.