(Image via SAVE.)
Picture this: You are a young woman out to have a little fun with your friends. You do your hair, your make-up. The outfit you pick is cute and fun. Later, you meet up with your friends, and have more than a few drinks. You partake in a few drinking games, and do a little flirting with some cute guys. Before you know it, you’ve passed out from consuming too much alcohol. When you wake, you find you have been raped. Not only does your attacker violate you physically, the act was photographed and posted on several social media sites.
After questioning yourself about the hazy memory of your evening, you report the crime to law enforcement. Eventually, the case makes its way to the court system where the defense of your attacker is that you shouldn’t have been so flirty and drunk. In essence, he says you asked for it.
While many of us would like to say this could never happen, this scenario happens more than we’d like to admit. Many times these attacks go unreported for fear of being stigmatized or humiliated. Many women actually do feel at fault when their own behavior has not been exemplary, but they absolutely should not.
It’s very hard to compile the exact data of how many women in our country are actually sexually assaulted because not all of these crimes are reported. But every single day there are sexual assaults against women. We’d all love to think that most assaults are committed by some Boogeyman hiding in a dark ally, but more often than not, the survivor actually knows the Boogeyman. Acquaintance rapes and date rapes are estimated to outnumber rape by a stranger, but due to lack of reporting, we may not know that true number.
This is frightening because these rapes occur when a woman has let her guard down. She is laughing with, having a drink with, enjoying dinner with, or watching a movie with the man who will take away her security forever. This man, who has earned this woman’s trust, will effectively teach her to never trust again. What’s more, he will use her own behavior against her in his own defense. Maybe she has been promiscuous in the past. Maybe she had a few too many drinks. Maybe her flirtation went a little beyond harmless flirting.
The point the rapist misses altogether is that once she said no, or once she was incapacitated and didn’t have the ability to say no, all games were off. He did not have the right to force this woman to engage in sexual activity. Her sexual past is not a factor. Her level of intoxication is not a factor. Her talking about sex is not a factor. She said no, or was unable to communicate; that is where it should stop.
Another problem we face is with coerced sex. A man will intentionally get a woman to drink or use drugs in order to lower her inhibitions, basically taking the word no from her vocabulary. Also, men will tell women what they want to hear in order to have sex with them. They will tell women they love them and want to be with them just to fulfill their own sexual desires. While coerced sex does not exactly equal rape, it is, in my opinion, a form of emotional rape that crosses into the boundaries of hurting someone.
I have heard many times that women need to take self-defense courses to fend off attackers, and this is true. But when you never think the person who is sitting next to you at dinner will later attack you and you let your guard down, self-defense is useless. The Boogeyman is in your home trying to impress you, laughing with you, and waiting to strike when you least expect it.
What I believe we need more of is teaching men that rape is wrong, be it forceful rape or emotional rape. We need to break the societal construction we have built for men which teaches them that sex is for them and about them, and if they don’t get sex, they are less of a man. We should be teaching our boys and men that it is acceptable to not have sex, and if a woman says no, they should respect that. And, we should teach them that intentionally lowering a woman’s inhibitions through empty promises or bottles of booze is just as wrong as physically attacking her.
Women should not have to feel guilty for reporting a terrible crime committed against them. They should never have to hang their heads in shame. And men should give both themselves and women the dignity of understanding that no means no, and an inability to answer does not mean yes.
All women do not secretly desire the sexual attention of every male they happen upon. What all women do desire is the ability to hold on to their senses of security and trust. Once those things are gone, they may never fully return. It’s up to you, men of the world, to give them that one gift. And it’s up to us, as a society, to teach men how to give women that gift.
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!