How to Talk to a Survivor of Sexual Assault

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Sexual assault is not something that you can just “get over”. It is not only physically oppressive but also mentally, emotionally, and cognitively damaging.

Whenever a person chooses to rape or sexually assault another individual, they are not only affecting the victim’s life in a drastic way, but also their parents, friends, and loved ones. The months and years after a sexual assault can be filled with fear, isolation, confusion, and hatred toward oneself and their attacker. It is important that the survivor has a supportive network of loved ones to help guide them through their healing.

Of course, this is not an easy process. It is painful for the victim to open up about their experience and it is also difficult to know what to say when someone you love tells you that they have been raped.

Here are some “guidelines” to speaking to someone about their sexual assault:

1. Don’t blame the victim
It took a lot of courage for this person to open up to you and tell you about their experience. The single worst thing you could do is tear them down even more by blaming them. Victim blaming can happen in a variety of ways. There is the obvious: saying they shouldn’t have been out that late, saying they should have not gone to that party, etc. Blame, however, can also come in the form of a question. These are just as hurtful and can make the victim feel as if you are belittling their feelings and their experience. A few common ways you can blame someone with a question includes: “Were you drinking?” “What were you wearing?” “Well, did you fight back?”. All of these questions take the blame off of the rapist and on to the victim.

2. Don’t tell the victim they have to report the attack (if they chose not to)
There are a variety of reasons why an individual will choose not to or not want to report the attack to authorities. Going along with number 1, it is no secret that the media and society puts blame on the victim. For example, in the 2012 Steubenville rape case, a high school girl was incapacitated by alcohol and was repeatedly raped and humiliated on camera by two sixteen year old high school football players. The two boys recorded the assault and sent the video to other students who then chose to post the video of her rape all over social media. When the girl reported the attack to school officials, they ignored her plea for help. The two boys were charged of rape of a minor and the school officials were charged for obstruction of justice. When the verdict of the two football players was reached, there was a national out-cry. People were furious that these boys were being punished as adults. I don’t know about you, but I think a sixteen year old boy is old enough to know that rape is wrong and is perfectly capable of controlling his actions. As if this young girl had not gone through enough already, the media had a field day. Saying things like “I feel bad for the two young guys, Mays and Richmond, they did what most people in their situation would have done.” and “There goes those poor boys’ futures!”. Do they even care about what her future will look like now? Did they forget who the victim is? Possibly the one whose sexual assault went viral on the internet and around the world..
Usually when a person chooses not to report their attack, it is to avoid a traumatic legal battle and having to face their attacker again. Please do not press the issue.

(For more examples of why people choose not to report their rape, read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/us/how-one-college-handled-a-sexual-assault-complaint.html?_r=0 )

3. Do ask them how they are doing

Many people’s first reaction when someone tells them they have been raped, is anger. This is completely normal and expected. However, the first thing to come out of your mouth shouldn’t be  “what’s his name?”. We understand that  you are angry and will do anything to seek justice, however, a survivor, especially if they chose not to report the individual, never wants to say/hear their attackers name ever again. And if a survivor refuses to tell you the name of their attacker, it is not to defend and protect them but to protect their loved ones from making a mistake and getting into trouble.

Instead,  ask the survivor how they are feeling and if they are safe. Ask them how they are dealing with this experience and if you can help in any way. Usually by the time a survivor starts opening up about what happened to them, they have had some time to begin healing. If they have not, this is when you can help guide them in the right direction. It won’t be a quick or easy process but it makes all the difference in the world to have a support system.

4. Do not “just pretend it never happened”

Outward appearances can be deceiving. Many times, a survivor can put on a mask and convince themselves and the world that they are happy and the event no longer haunts them. Do not be fooled by this. Victims of all kinds of abuse try this coping mechanism because sometimes it is easier to ignore reality and sweep it under the rug. This may provide temporarily relief but the memories and pain are always the last thing on their mind before they fall asleep. Never stop checking up on their healing progress but try not to do this is a nagging way. Be there in a supportive, loving way. This can just be including them in daily activities, asking them how they are feeling, watching their moods, and giving them space when they need it.

5. Do suggest that they get professional help

If they have not already chosen to do so on their own, it helps to have a little bit of encouragement. They may know very early on that they need to seek professional help but could be too afraid to do so. They are afraid of opening up, being judged, being blamed, etc. If they are not ready to speak to a therapist just yet, be patient. They will choose to go when they are ready.

6. Do remember what makes them special in the first place

Among the craziness of dealing with a traumatic event, an individual may become lost for a while and lose who they are temporarily. This can manifest in a variety of ways such as rebellion, depression, anxiety, anger, hatred, regret, etc. Do not let these temporary side-effects cloud your judgement on the person you love. Remember what makes them happy, what makes them smile and do not give up on them. If they were brave enough to open up, they trust you and love you enough to share one of their darkest moments with you.

 

I understand that every situation is different and so is every person. These are not strict guide lines and can be altered and customized for your specific situation. However, two things remain the same. Never stop showing you care and be sensitive to their feelings.

I hope that this reaches someone who cannot find the words. But most of all, I hope that one day we will not need a guideline on how to speak to survivors because rape will cease to exist.

 

-E-

Escaping the Friend-Zone

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Who wants friends anyways? Gross..

We’ve all heard it before.

“Nice guys always finish last.”

“Nice guys get friend-zoned.”

“Girls leave the nice guys for the bad guys.”

What do all of these assumptions have in common?

Complete and utter bullsh*t.

Whenever you hear one of these lines, it’s usually coming from someone who was recently dumped or someone who is trying to console a heartbroken friend.

I’ve been seeing an article float around Facebook lately titled “An Open Letter To The Girl Who Let The Nice Guy Go”. In this article, the writer is venting about how girls leave the “nice” guys behind and go for the “bad boys”. He says that the girls who leave the nice guys don’t deserve them anyway and will one day regret it when another girl comes to appreciate said “nice guy”. The entire idea of a “friend-zone” or the entitlement one feels for being a “nice guy” has always irked me. But this article written by Frish Yaquibe on Elite Daily tipped me over the top.

Usually when I see something on social media that I don’t agree with, I try to ignore it because we all know how effective it is to try and reason with people on the internet. Upon seeing my “friends” share this article, I first tried to ignore it and keep scrolling but I couldn’t  resist speaking up. This is what I said:

 Or maybe people shouldn’t expect to get anything out of being nice and just be a good person for the sake of being a good person. If a guy expects to get something from a girl for being “nice”, he isn’t a nice guy. Plus, there’s more to making a relationship work than being nice.

There was no reply from either of the young men who shared the article, but I still stand by what I said 110%.

Since when do we live in a world where we feel entitled to something because we were nice? You wouldn’t walk into a store, steal a pair of shoes and upon getting caught reply with “why not? I’m a nice person!”

I might be way out of line here but…maybe…you’re not a nice guy?

In my opinion, anyone who feels entitled to someone else’s body for being “nice” is not a nice person.

Women are not machines where you can put “‘nice’ tokens” into until sex falls out…

I’m afraid Mr. Yaquibe didn’t get the memo that women are autonomous beings with their own thoughts, desires, and dreams.

This belief of entitlement is much more dangerous than a couple of boys sharing an article online. It is rooted deeply in our society and is one of the root causes for sexual violence. (ahem. Elliot Rogers).

Or maybe you really are a nice guy and she still rejected you. Now what?

There’s a good chance that you weren’t what she was looking for at this time in her life. We change a great deal throughout our lives. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’m not the same person I was two years ago. As we grow older, our likes and dislikes change and so do the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

Sometimes in life, we do all the right things and we try to be the best person possible and things still don’t end up our way. And that is okay. Rejection happens to everyone.

Instead of hiding behind the word “nice” or the “friend-zone” to help soothe your ego, try realizing that not everyone who talks or dates ends up being soul mates.

It is no secret that it takes a lot to make a relationship work. There is so much that goes into it than just “niceness”. Being a “nice” person is great but what does that word even really mean? The term is ambiguous in itself. In order to have a healthy relationship there must be trust, communication, love, compassion, support, equality, passion, spontaneity, and much more. Being nice is not a free pass to whatever you want in life.

Even if people don’t stay in our lives for very long, everyone has a lesson to teach us. Some people teach us about new interests, new hobbies, or open our minds to new ideas. Some people enter our lives solely to teach us patience.

I dated the same guy for four years up until this past January and I can honestly say that he is a nice guy. However, there was too much going on in both of our lives to keep the relationship going. We weren’t the same people we were when we first met and we had grown to have different goals and dreams. Though he is a nice guy, there were things about him that upset me as I know there were things about me that he didn’t like either. It’s painful to lose someone that you once cared so deeply for, but that break-up was the best thing for both of us at this point in our lives. He taught me things about life and myself that I would have never learned otherwise and for that, I will always be grateful. I’ve accepted that in order for both of us to be our own person and achieve our dreams, we needed to do it alone.

Instead of placing the blame on anyone when going through a rejection, we should just accept that we are not meant to be with that person. Sure, it may hurt and our egos may be damaged but at the end of the day you weren’t right for them. And guess what? They weren’t right for you either. It doesn’t mean that one person has to be the good guy and the other the bad guy. Not everyone is compatible and that is a fact of life.

So next time you get the urge to complain of being friend-zoned or blame a girl for going for the “wrong guys” remember that everyone is entitled to their feelings, dreams, and desires but no one is entitled to the body or love of another human being.

Sincerely,

Erika

 

 

 

 

A “Coveted Status”

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This past Friday, Washington Post columnist, George Will, published an article titled “Colleges become the victims of progressivism”. He expressed his “concern” about how college campuses are falling victim to the Obama administration for bringing attention to the sexual assault that happens everyday on our college campuses.

In April of this year, the White House released a map of schools that misshandle sexual assault to urge campuses to change their policies in dealing with sexual assault. (1)

In his article, Will asks us to “consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.”

First of all, this epidemic is not “supposed” as it is all very real. As a college student, Not only have I seen it happen and heard way too many accounts of rape and sexual assault, I’ve also heard college aged men talking about sexual assault as if it is a triumph.

One frat at UCLA for example, has a drink they serve to girls at parties called “the rape drink”.

Second, he puts quotations around Sexual Assault and Survivor as if it is some made up problem and that rape is not a traumatic experience.

Being sexually assaulted is something that affects victims for their entire lives. It is not something that is easy to “get over” or forget. It takes years of healing.

To anyone who thinks rape is not a problem or that women are using the term “rape victim” as some kind of privilege, here are the facts (2):

95 percent of attacks are unreported, making sexual assault the “silent epidemic.” Sexual assault remains the most drastically under-reported crime

90 percent of women know the person who sexually assaulted or raped them.

42 percent of college women who are raped tell no one about the assault.

42 percent of raped women expect to be raped again.

To George Will and anyone who thinks that survivors are getting “too much attention”, NINETY-FIVE percent of rapes go unreported. Instead of punishing and blaming women for speaking up about their experiences, why not target the problem at the source and provide justice?

Studies conducted with college aged students report that 15-16% of college aged men believe women want to be raped and 11% of college aged men believe that women exaggerate about how rape affects them. In reality, sexual assault affects victims emotionally, physically, psychologically, and socially. (3)

In our society, women are blamed for not speaking up or reporting their assault, but when they do, they are accused of being over dramatic or looking for attention. Also, many women do not report sexual assaults because they know that even some of their own friends or family will blame them although they know they were not at fault. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.

So, why would anyone consider being a rape victim a “coveted status”?

George Will is not the problem here. It is the societal belief that women “make up” stories of rape or wish to be raped for attention.

I hear it all too often from friends and acquaintances. Rape jokes are not and never will be funny. Men, or boys rather, like to laugh and make fun of girls for being “over-paranoid” for carrying around pepper spray or refusing to park far away when they might have to walk back to their car in the dark.

It is easy for men to joke about these things because it is something they’ve rarely had to worry about. They figure if someone were to try to mug them, they could just fight them off. They have never been cat-called on the street by a group of middle aged men or had a truck driver make suggestive gestures to them on the freeway. Women live in fear everyday that they will be sexually assaulted. When I asked a group of women what their number one fear is, the majority of them said rape. How many men would say the same?

I read a quote the other day that sums this up perfectly.

“Privilege is thinking a problem is not a problem because it does not directly affect you.”

If a loved one, told you they were raped, would you tell them that they are being over dramatic or that it was their fault for whatever reason? After all, they’re just a “survivor” right?

Until next time,

E

1) http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117574/obama-sexual-assault-college-campuses-initiative-report-comes-out

2)  http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/legal-resources/know-your-rights-on-campus/campus-sexual-assault/#stats

3) http://unh.edu/ivrl/Edwards%20et%20al%202011%20SR.pdf

 

Those Crazy Feminists Are At It Again: What is feminism?

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The-Womens-Room-Jacky-Fleming-Feminsits-as-humans

Jacky Fleming

 

I have to be honest, when I was first brainstorming where I wanted this whole blog to go, I had the brief idea that I wanted to avoid the term “feminism” because of all the negative connotations that are out there. I was afraid that the term might scare a few readers away.

When most people hear the word “feminism” they usually associate it with the “definition” that Pat Robertson, television evangelist and former Baptist minister said at a GOP convention in 1992, that says feminism is “about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”

Although this exact image may not always manifest in someone’s mind, they usually have an image of a radical, angry, bitter woman, who is no stranger to body hair.

In actuality, a feminist is an individual who believes in the equality of the sexes socially, economically, and politically. Feminism is not about women leaving their families, killing their babies, or performing witchcraft. It is about creating a more peaceful and just world for everyone. This includes people of every race, gender, and sexual orientation. I’ve had a few people tell me, “well it seems to me that feminists want to create more inequality by saying they are superior to men.” This is not the case. Female feminists do not consider themselves superior to men at all. That would defeat the entire concept of equality. In order to correct generations of injustice and oppression we must pick up the slack to even the playing field.

Let me paint you an example. Say you are playing tug-of-war and there is a flag tied to the middle of the rope indicating which side is winning based on the side that the flag is on. The other team is beating you and the flag is on their side. In order to bring the flag back to the middle so that both sides are equal, you will have to pull a little harder than the opposing team. If you pull just as hard as the other team, the flag will stay stagnant with no movement at all.

In order to create change in a society that has proved itself not easily persuaded, you must make some radical efforts.

We live in a world that if a woman is raped or sexually assaulted, she is asked what she was wearing or if she was drinking. It is more common for society to blame the victim than they are to blame the rapist (PS no one is ever asking to be raped. That is why it is non-consensual). If a man is assaulted, no such questions are asked.

We live in a world where men are pressured to always be the macho protector and is seen as weak or called names like “pussy” or “bitch” if they show any emotion. This is destructive to men because it dehumanizes them, saying that they are not allowed to have normal human feelings, and we all know what happens to people who bottle up their emotions.

We live in a world where if a woman does not sleep with a man or accept his advances, she is seen as a tease or a prude (And also puts herself at risk for murder or assault if she rejects him) and if she does accept his requests, she is called a slut or a whore.

We live in a world where men are raised and molded by society to believe that women are the biggest “prize” they can achieve. That their biggest goal in life is to get the pretty girl. This limits men from so many other things that they can accomplish and strive for in life within themselves.

I hear way too often from men, “Not all men treat women that way! So why should we be feminist?”

Not all men are misogynistic, entitled, rapists. However, every woman has a story of injustice done to her by a man. Whether it be a sexual assault, harassment, stalking, or verbal abuse. As human beings, we should join the fight whenever we hear that anyone is being mistreated. So I challenge you men: Not all men are guilty of the mistreatment of women, but what can you do to stand by us to create a more just and equal world?

We need feminism because woman and men deserve more. We all deserve better. And the only way to get there, is if we work together. We as humans need to respect each other and raise each other up in times of oppression. And right now, we need to unite more than ever.

There have been no wars in the name of feminism. We stand for education, gender equality, safer working conditions, childcare, rape crisis centers. For women to be treated like human beings.

I long for the day where I don’t have to hear another woman say,

“I’m not a feminist but…”

Or a man say,

“I can’t be a feminist! I’m a guy!”

No one should be ashamed or ridiculed for being a feminist. Being a feminist is not limited to race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. If you believe in the equality of all human beings, you are a feminist.

So I ask you, if you are not a feminist, what’s your excuse?

Until next time,

A Proud Feminist

(Join the discussion on twitter.com/hopeislouder and use the hash tag #StrongerTogether)

Women’s Issues are Human Issues

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I know what you’re thinking. “Oh no, not another feminist blog”. But let me assure you, this one will be different.

As a young woman growing up in California, I have been blessed with the opportunity to get an education, have a loving family, and supportive friends. Sure, I can admit that life has not always been rainbows and butterflies, but I am blessed. No one asks to be born into the body, or family, or social standing that they are; however, we all are born into this world and forced to figure it all out. Some never do and some come close. While we all have countless things to be grateful for, there are also many things that women and men have to deal with that we never asked for and sure as hell do not deserve.

In my short time here on earth, I have learned that in society there is almost always a hierarchy. There is always someone or something holding power on something else. In things such as the workplace, and government, it makes sense because leadership is required. However, in a social context, why does anyone have the right to be superior to another human being? In instances where there is a hierarchy, there is also someone or a group of people who hold the power. When power is not evenly distributed, there is always oppression and violence.

I can almost hear you thinking “That’s a little extreme. There isn’t always oppression or violence where there is a hierarchy.” To that, I would like to ask you to challenge your definition of oppression.

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of the word “oppression” is as follows: 1. “An unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.”, 2. “something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power.”, or the “kids definition” of 3. “A feeling of low spirits.” 

In the real world, oppression is not always obvious and it does not always show up in a physical form. The most prominent form of oppression in today’s society is the silencing of voices and convincing the world that some voices matter more than others. Unfortunately, sometimes the negative and hurtful voices speak louder, and my life goal as well as the goal of this blog is to prove how Hope Speaks Louder.

On May 23, 2014, six college students at the University of California Santa Barbara were murdered. The shooter published a video on YouTube to publicize his motives. With a demeanor so chilling it would make the devil himself squirm, he stated in this video how he hated women and that he blames women for ruining his life because he was 22 years old and still a virgin. He said that every woman who ever rejected him deserved to be annihilated and that they will soon learn that he is the superior alpha male. As sickening and unbelievable as he sounds, this sort of thinking is extremely common in today’s society. How many times have you heard (or said) that “girl’s always friend zone the nice guys” or “nice guys always finish last”? I’m sure more times than you can count. (And just a side note, if you believe that a woman owes you something because you were nice to her, you are not a nice guy.) Or how many times have you heard some sort of victim blaming that “she was asking for it” because of her clothing choice or how ever many drinks she had. Again, more times than you can count.

After this tragic mass murder, people took to the internet to voice their concerns. The hash tag “#YesAllWomen” spread like wildfire on Twitter where women from all over the world gathered and shared their stories of sexual abuse, rape, oppression, harassment, etc. Maybe not all men think the way that the SB shooter did, but every single woman you will ever meet in your life has a story to share about gender violence. I send my condolences to the families of the victims and hope that this is the last time we see a mass school shooting. I am one who likes to believe that everything has a silver lining, and I am not in any way saying that this shooting was a positive event, however, it has brought the conversation of gender violence to the masses and this is what inspired me to create this blog.

I refuse to sit here and “man hate”. Being born a male is not the issue. The issue is how we raise boys and girls into two different sets of gender expectations. Being a man does not automatically make you an enemy. I think Jackson Katz, PhD, anti-sexist advocate, expert on violence, media and masculinities, said it perfectly. He stated that when a man hears the term “gender violence” he automatically associates it with “women’s issues” and stops listening. In events where a woman or child is being abused by a man, this is alwaysmen’s issue. He emphasizes that this gender equality movement should not be a battle of the sexes and men should not fight against women but stand beside them. And that is what I am here to do. With this blog, I hope to engage women and men in the conversation on ending gender inequality, oppression, and violence. Together we are stronger and together we can change the world.

Until next time,

Erika

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