Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Just get over it"

Have you ever noticed that the victim in a situation is always told to get "over it"? Not past it, not beyond it, but over it. They are also asked to forgive and forget.

The thing about really bad situations is that it's not only impossible to forget, but sometimes we don't want to. The question should always be, "How do I keep myself from being in this situation again?" When it was abuse that the victim went through, I think this is doubly so.

April is National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, and while I've never been a victim of sexual abuse, I do want to stand in solidarity with people who have been. I don't know what they've been through, but I do know that it was not their fault and that their perpetrator is a severely disturbed human being.

Sexual assault is not a sexually gratifying act. Or, it may be, but that is not the required end result of a perpetrator. Sexual assault and abuse is about controlling another person. It is not a respecter of gender, race, religious affiliation, country of origin, or nationality. The victims of sexual assault are not chosen for what they wear, but for their present vulnerability. A young woman walking across campus at two in the morning. A young child afraid of the dark. A teenaged boy going through all kinds of hormonal changes without the life experience to back them up. Someone who is easy to control. Someone who can't fight back. Someone who will blame themselves. "I shouldn't have worn this dress!" "It's my fault for being afraid." "I knew it was wrong, but she wouldn't stop touching me."

I hate the "I couldn't help myself" excuse. "She wanted it until the very last, and then she started fighting. It was too late for me." I once heard a man, who had been sexually abusing his daughter since she was a baby, say that she started wanting it. When everyone left, she would just go to him. You know those five-year-olds. They're so seductive and sexy.

Sexual abuse needs to be talked about. When a girl is drugged unconscious, raped, and then her perpetrators put their cigarettes out on her arms and other body parts, put it on tape, go to court, and then their defense attorney suggests that the girl is complicit and just feigning sleep, there is a problem.

Victims are victims, period. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is not their fault. Wearing the wrong clothes has nothing to do with it. Trying to say that all teenaged boys want twenty-something older women hitting on them and having sex with them is not addressing the fact that he was violated and that it was wrong of that woman to even look at him.

We need to all stand together and remember that the victim is the one that needs our sympathy and protection. Not the perpetrator.

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