With the Kavanaugh investigation impacting our planet, I keep hearing,”Why did it take so long? Why now?” Understandable questions.
Many people, especially men (and some women) assume that if one is attacked in society, you just go to the police. Just do it. Report and prosecute. They are confused and that confusion leads to skepticism and doubt.
Getting educated on trauma and the reality of what it is to be a sexual assault victim will help clear up the confusion.
- After an assault, the natural human instinct is to preserve one’s self and want what happened to go away. To report it is to immediately reenter the burning building, after you have just escaped. You might get burned again and you are in shock and severe pain…but you must go back? Into the building? Reporting often results in new and added traumas from peers in high school, police officers, lawyers, etc. I have a friend who went to the police recently about her daughter having been raped, and the female cop said to her daughter, a child, “Well, have you learned your lesson, little lady?” Happens all the time.
- You may or may not have much support. You can’t do anything hard in life without support. Women instinctually understand that even if there are some individuals who may support them, our society is set up in a way to blame the victim of sexual assault. “She shouldn’t have been drinking.” “What was she doing at the time?” “What do you mean you can’t remember?” There is still a tendency, even among “educated” people, to blame the victim, especially if the victim was date raped versus stranger raped. I recommend reading the memoir “Lucky” by Alice Sebold. She was raped by a stranger as a virgin and was completely excoriated by the system. Imagine if she had been drinking or on a date, or God forbid, had passed out.
- Women commit violent crimes upon themselves, while men are more likely to commit violent crimes against others.* All victims of trauma, particularly sexual trauma experience intense feelings of shame, worthlessness, and self-loathing. This doesn’t make sense and I wish it wasn’t so, but it just is. Therefore, sexual abuse victims immediately fall prey to feelings of depression, anxiety, and self-loathing. Their regular coping mechanisms fall apart. This makes it more difficult to focus outwardly on justice, revenge, facing one’s attacker, dealing with society, police and attorneys. The magnitude and management of what will happen are often too overwhelming to contemplate when one is just trying to figure out how to function through a day. Victims want to forget and pretend it never happened. This can go on for years; it just makes sense.
- Society is so used to women being attacked that they don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. In my book “Stop Giving It Away,” I talk about how we women don’t consciously realize how much energy and effort goes into keeping ourselves “safe” from unknown, undeclared attacks. For example, if I told a woman to go for a run at 4 a.m., in the dark, most women would automatically feel uncomfortable. My dad used to say to me when I left the house as a teenager, “Have fun, but WATCH YOUR BACK.” Females live with this so much that we accept it as a norm. This affects our world view and our daily decisions as well as our propensity to use our voice. And, if we we are attacked, then we have failed, we can therefore more readily accept that the onus has to be on us.
- Sometimes women who have been sexually assaulted don’t support other women who have been sexually assaulted. Even though on the surface this doesn’t make sense, when we explore psychology it does make sense. We talk about this more in “Stop Giving It Away.” This is a variation of the psychological processes like Stockholm Syndrome and Identification with the Aggressor: defenses that people use if they can’t synthesize harmful things. “What’s the big deal? We have all been through it.” “Get over it.” This helps the assaulted to feel accepted, to avoid conflict, and to get along with the powers that be. On some level, this helps them feel good and safe in a world that is sometimes very bad.
- Our circle of existence limits us and those around us. If you have never been attacked, or you don’t have a ton of experience hearing from and witnessing the experiences of friends and intimates who are victims, that absence of personal experience limits the accuracy of your view. Also, if your religion or culture puts the onus of any sexual interaction onto the woman as gatekeeper, that changes how you see sexual assault and victimization. How you live your life is your business. However, we are all limited by our inability to see outside of our circle of existence. Also, most men (the majority of whom haven’t experienced feeling a daily lack of power and a daily unconscious feeling of perhaps being attacked) don’t know what it is like. They probably haven’t been sexually traumatized or physically attacked. They can only imagine from their own lack of experience. Fantasy is just that—fantasy. As Anais Nin so eloquently stated, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
I am so glad that both men** and women are coming out and being open and honest now about their traumas as a result of the #Ibelieveher and #metoo movements.
These movements aren’t perfect and there will be hiccups, but overall, telling people that we will support you in working through your awful experience is a powerful beginning. I keep reading about elderly people saying, “I was attacked 38 years ago and I never told anyone.” And then they say how much better they feel just saying it. Awful. And awesome.
If you have been sexually attacked in your life, please consider seeking the help of a licensed therapist. Find one with whom you feel supported and guided in a healthy, positive way.
And, as always, take care.
*Read more: Gender and Crime – Differences Between Male And Female Offending Patterns – Categories, Women, Males, and Females – JRank Articles http://law.jrank.org/pages/1250/Gender-Crime-Differences-between-male-female-offending-patterns.html#ixzz5SaXvRQYY
**Here’s an important article on male sexual assault I want to share. https://aasas.ca/support-and-information/men-and-sexual-assault/