“How to Avoid Being Assaulted”

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Sorry to piggy back right off my last post, but I can’t help it in this instance. After posting “Sexual Assault and our need to stop denying victimization”, I noticed an article. Then, I saw it again, and again. I saw it in different formats and even watched a story on it on my local news station.

“How to Avoid Being Assaulted.”

As I said in my last post, we need to stop challenging victims and allow them to reach out so that we can address these heinous crimes. But after seeing this Public Service Announcement, I want to remind all of you that clearly, we still need to work on our education before we can address the crimes themselves.

So according to the PSA, just how does one “Avoid” being assaulted?

  • Women should dress appropriately. – Not only is this vague, but I didn’t realize there was a mandatory dress code in the game of life, especially in America. And if so, do the men who walk around shirtless in the summer invite trouble? No? Oh. Ok. But my tank top and shorts are just screaming “Assault me!” Aren’t they? My bad.
  • Women should walk in groups or pairs – Seriously? Now we need an escort too? And how many goats will my parents get for my hand in marriage?

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  • Women should avoid going out at night – Sorry guys. I can’t go out tonight. I have to be home before the streetlights come on. Oh, I’m not in second grade? Hm. Then why is society telling me to act like I am?
  • Women should avoid alcohol – Yes. Of course. We can’t drink the devil’s water. As weak as we are, just one little whiff, and we black out. Of course, we are helpless little creatures and as the world knows, an unconscious woman is a free pass, like a dying gazelle in the desert. Just let the predators line up to get their fill.
  • Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know – I hate to burst your bubble, but how is it that you get to know people, if you are not allowed to talk to them and you know, get to know them?

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  • Don’t engage in risky behavior– Again, this is a little vague. While I agree that dancing in front of oncoming traffic, propelling down the side of buildings without proper harnesses or supports, etc. should be avoided, my spidey senses tell me that’s not what they’re talking about here.
  • Hold onto your drink, even when you go to the restroom – Yuck. Just yuck.
  • Have a plan and stick to it – So much for spontaneity, whimsy and being a free spirit.
  • Avoid bars that charge men but let women in for free – I live in Vegas so…. avoid Vegas. Got it. And also, does this apply to the gyms where women join free?
  • Let your date know what you are willing to do from the onset of the date. That way, they don’t have to read your mind. – So… should we bring a contract and notary public with us, just to make it official? And what if they don’t honor this magical document that outlines our boundaries?

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  • Be independent and aware – This one really chaps my kakis. For some people, especially those with anxiety, this may not be possible. For them, strength and independence may be a work in progress.

Now, if we truly recommend these guidelines, aren’t we essentially telling people to avoid talking to others, never take a drink and don’t go anywhere? I mean, we might as well be saying, “Hey, do you want to avoid rape? Go to a well lit corner and sit by yourself. Do this, and you’ll be fine.” Does nobody see how insane that is?

And what of the men? The bulk of the guidelines are addressed to women. What about all the males who are victims of sexual assault? What of the children?

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I would like to believe the intent behind the Public Service Announcements was righteous. I think the people behind them were trying to help, but the simple fact is: none of these guidelines can prevent sexual assault.

The only thing that stops a sexual assault is stopping the attacker. We don’t need to tell our girls to walk in packs. We don’t need to judge the clothes they do or don’t wear, and we certainly don’t have the right to question what they do in their daily lives.

Instead, we need to teach people to respect all others. Boys should be taught women are not sexual objects, but are real, live, breathing people, because they are. Girls need to be taught that men are not there to serve them and that they too, have the right to say no. We have to explain that assault is a two way street. We have to start at the ground level, teach people to respect others, to love others, and to be good to everyone they meet.

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Then we need to move into consequences. We can’t continue to allow this epidemic of sexual assault to run rampant. We have to hold those who attack accountable, and not just by issuing a minor fine or writing it off with a few dozen hours of community service. There need to be real, true consequences. These people overpower others. They use fear and intimidation as weapons, knowing the consequences they could face are minimal. If they want to dabble in the world of fear and intimidation, let them. Let them live in fear of what will happen to them. Let the justice system intimidate them and make it crystal clear that this crime they are committing WILL forever change their lives. Make them know, with every fiber of their being, that this will ruin them.

We don’t need to teach people to avoid sexual assault. We need to teach them to stop committing the attacks.

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~Jennifer L. Meacham

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Sexual Assault and our need to stop denying victimization

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Confused? Baffled? Are you maybe wondering why on earth I want to stop denying people the ability to be victimized? Read on.

First, let me be clear: We need to stop Sexual Assault entirely, especially in our own country, our own backyard. I mean, come on! This is America, the leader of the free world. We are a modern society, not animals or savages. While I do not condone sexual assault on any level or in any society, the discussion becomes much more obtuse when you discuss third world societies, their lack of teachings and resultant lack of understanding or moral definition. So, at least for the sake of this argument, let’s focus on the rape culture in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

The truth is right there in front of us. We all see it when we turn on the news, open our favorite internet home page, listen to the radio, read a book or magazine article. Maybe you see an exposé link on your social media feed, or maybe, just maybe, a friend or loved one shares a piece of themselves with you and tells you of the assault they’ve endured.

What do you do? How do you respond? How does anyone respond? Usually, people change the channel, they scroll on or turn the page. For those who face it in person, they often change the subject or share some story that is not only entirely unrelated but somehow also trivializes the experience. Maybe you, the person reading this, is thinking, “Hey. Wait a minute. That’s not fair. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.” Fair enough. I’ll allow that, but in truth, if you don’t know what to say, if the subject makes you uncomfortable, then say nothing. Whatever you do, please, and this goes for all of us, please stop turning victims away.

Yep. that’s right. You heard me. It is the most common response when a victim comes forward. They’re turned away.  But, why, you wonder. Because that’s how society works. When they don’t have an answer, they point the blame right back at the victim.

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“I told you not to dress like that.” “You knew better than to go there.” “Were you drinking?” “Why were you alone?” “It’s a bad neighborhood.” “Did you lead them on?” “Are you sure?” “Who was it? Oh, you don’t know who it was?” “Are you lying?” “You are lying.” “Why would you say that?” “Don’t make crap up.” “You know you wanted it.” “What did you expect?” “It didn’t mean anything.” “It’s not like they really hurt you.” “It’s no big deal.” “So what? You got laid. What’s the problem?” “There was no penetration, it doesn’t count.” “It’s your own fault.” The list, is endless.

But none of those responses is appropriate. The truth is, unless the response is something helpful, like having them reach out to a therapist, or file a claim, by being a strong shoulder for them to lean on as they face their attacker in court, or something that helps them, we are only perpetuating the problem. If we focus on the cause, we are drawing out the attack. There is no, absolutely NO, cause for sexual assault. None.

If we blame the victim for something they did not do, if we aren’t addressing the crime that took place, we aren’t allowing these wonderful, brave and resilient people the ability to be a victim. Instead, because the issue is outside our own comfort zone, we force them into a corner where they’re left with self-doubt, anxiety, loneliness, despair, etc. By trivializing their experience or doubting the circumstances, we only make it worse. And what is worse than being raped, molested, or assaulted?

When you aren’t allowed the peace to be what you are: a victim.

When someone is shot, attacked, robbed, we get them justice. When someone is raped, we doubt them, we question their intent, we defend the attacker for fear of their reputation. And what of our victim’s reputation?

If they’re female, they become tramps, sluts, etc. If it’s a male, the slurs become even worse. And if they report it? They become prudes, liars, problematic people, or someone desperate for attention.

Sexual Assault needs to be addressed. But before we can truly do that, we have to allow the victims to be victimized. Until we allow such victimization, how the heck can we see the crime? How can we find better ways to police the assaults, keep better statistics, prosecute the attackers, create harsher sentences and remove these offenders from our streets if we, as a society, refuse to acknowledge it as a crime?

If you’ve been victimized, I’m sorry, but more importantly, I see you. I fight for you, and if we all stand strong, if we all move forward in society, your voices will be heard. You did nothing wrong. You deserved better, and one day? One day, we’ll get there. Until we do, stay strong.

stay strong

~Jennifer L. Meacham