Listen and Support: Stop Victim Blaming

April is sexual assault awareness month which not only means spreading awareness, but it also means recognizing and supporting the strength of survivors. A lot of the time people are afraid of taking on the issue because of a fear of saying the wrong thing, but here are notes to help educate yourself and those around you this month:

Victim Blaming is Notorious for its Borderline Passivity

Often survivors hesitate to speak up about their assault: three out of four sexual assaults go unreported, so if someone speaks out about sexual assault, what they were wearing is not what you should be addressing. Asking them that question suggests that they may have been “asking for it” when in reality no amount of clothes justifies an assault. Another passive act is suggesting to the survivor what they should have done differently, in doing so you are suggesting it was their actions that lead them to the assault when the truth is they have no fault; it is the assailants 100 percent of the time. 

Woman at art museum Photo by Gilber Franco from Unsplash

Anyone at Age Can Experience It

While 90 percent of rape victims are women, 69 percent of them range from 12-34 years of age. Children are often targets of sexual assault, a statistic shows that “More than one-quarter of male victims of completed rape (27.8%) experienced their first rape when they were 10 years of age or younger.” This is because their cognitive function is lower, so assailants take advantage, and is the same reason why those with a disability are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault. This notion comes in hand with the belief aspect of sexual assault. 

three women hosting a dinner party Photo by Kelsey Chance from Unsplash

Believing and Validating

If someone opens up about their fight, respecting their story is very important. You could be the first person they choose to share it with and your reaction is important. One of the biggest disbeliefs comes when it relates to someone popular or well-liked. However, more than half of male and female victims reported being raped by an intimate partner or acquaintance. Don’t invalidate someone’s story because of your own belief, make sure to avoid judgment and thank them for sharing their story with you because often than not, it took a lot for them to open up.

Woman sitting alone Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Forms of Assault

Assault can mean stroking someone’s body without consent, sending nudes without consent, persistently bothering someone to have sexual relations, and so much more. It can happen to someone who's married, it can happen to someone through emotional manipulation and even blackmail. At the end of the day, no means no and it should be respected. Educating ourselves, our family, and the people around us about the different forms of assault is what this month is about. 

Be sure to spread awareness this month along with different resources that people can share and look over to educate one another on this very important issue.