It is time for us to have a serious talk about consent, sexual assault, and how this affects one’s mental health. With one in three women and one in six men experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetime (SACHA) its time for us to start making a change. Did you know that only one in three Canadians understand what sexual consent means? Sexual consent is the agreement to participate in any sexual activity (Planned Parenthood). Consent can only be made if the person is informed, given freely, and of sound mind.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a very broad term that describes violence by sexual means or by targeting someone’s sexuality. Some forms of sexual assault include stalking, ritual abuse, degrading someone’s sexuality, rape, unwanted comments, cat-calling, unwanted touching (grabbing, slapping, groping), sexual abuse, and much more. Sexual violence is any act that undermines someone’s gender integrity and/or one’s sexual integrity; what someone believes to be sexual violence is based on their own unique and personal experiences. The reality of our society is that only 5% of sexual violence and assault survivors report their assault to the police.
This fact may surprise you because what happened to them was illegal, but sadly, most assaults go unreported for a variety of reasons. There is still a large negative stigma that surrounds sexual assault, leaving victims to feel as if they are to blame. This stigma is known as rape culture, where the world that surrounds us validates and perpetuates rape. Almost every girl has heard the “you can’t wear tank tops because it will distract the boys”, and “boys will be boys,” but these statements both support rape culture. We constantly hear and see in the news that a victim reports their rape and nobody believes them; they jump through hoops to prove that they had been sexually assaulted. Yet, the statistics show that only 2 – 8 % of rape claims are false reports.
How does sexual assault impact one’s mental health?
As you can image sexual assault leave a traumatic scar on a survivor’s life. This can have both short-term and long-term effects on mental health. Survivors have been known to suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and much more. Many survivors have reported feeling guilty, confused, shameful, and have been known to have flashbacks of their assaults. Many survivors don’t seek out the help and recourses that are in place, leading to self-harm and suicide attempts.
Sexual assault is all too common in today’s world, but there are many things we can do to change this. Educate yourself on sexual assault, how you can help and what consent is. Think before you make that joke, help someone out if you seem them in need, intervene whenever you see someone in trouble. Most importantly, get consent every single time. Only yes means yes.