I remember a time when I was overwhelmed with guilt.
The crazy thing is – unlike so many others – I had so many more people constantly telling me it wasn’t my fault, rather than people who were judging me and saying it was.
There’s a different stigma when it comes to teenagers being the victim of sexual assault. It’s not something anyone can say and feel good about, but so many people believe that sexual assaults are harder to accept when the victim is a teenager over say, a 5 year old. “They should know better”… right?
Even though I had very few people who said this about me, I still felt it. Constantly.
If you ask those closest to me, they will tell you I have high standards, especially for myself and I am my own worst critic. This isn’t a new quality I have… so at 15 I definitely felt just as much at fault with my abuser. For years, I felt this. It wasn’t until intense healing and perspective that could only come with age that I would know better.
Far too often, victim blaming conversations happen when sexual assault isn’t “textbook”.
Rape, for example. The visual is a dark alley in the middle of the night with a nice woman and a scary bad guy.
Many times, rape doesn’t look anything like that.
It’s a wife who has become scared of her husband. It’s a college girl who is celebrating the end of finals week and not watching her drink closely. It’s a daughter whose never known any different from her father. It’s a teenage boy who met up with someone he met through an online game.
If the girl is wearing a shirt that is low cut or flirts – is she welcoming the behavior? Should she wear less revealing clothes? Should she not go out on the dance floor and leave her drink at the table?
Why is it that as a general public, anyone feels the right to water down vicious assault based on facts they think they know?
We have to change this stigma. We have to throw the “textbook” out the window and change the narrative. We. Have. To. Change. The. NARRATIVE!
We have to so that survivors feel safe. We have to so that the right people can be prosecuted. We have to change the narrative so that our sons and daughters know at a very basic level – they did NOTHING wrong. They didn’t ask for it. They didn’t lead someone on. Rape is wrong. Sexual assault is wrong.
We have to teach consent and respect and believing people when they trust enough to share our story.
In the meantime, we must teach our kids safety. Because there are “bad people” dressed up as the best people – and they have the right to feel safe. Always.