No I Wasn't Raped, Yes it was Still Sexual Assault

Sexual assault has always been a problem, but in light of recent events it appears that both the prevalence and prominence of this issue have gained a large amount of publicity. 

 

Sexual assault, by definition, is: "any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape (Department of Justice)."

 

Many celebrities and people of influence have begun to speak out about their own personal experiences with sexual assault in addition to demanding that those who assaulted them, or even just attempted to assault them, are held accountable. 

Having people who are often idolized by the general public (ie celebrities, singers, etc) share such personal and intimate experiences serves to show people that sexual assault can literally happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, background, and even social class, and it definitely does. 

 

In order to really help you understand how prevalent, and almost commonplace, sexual assault is in our modern-day culture, let me give you some statistics: 

1. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives

2. One in five women and one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted while in college

3. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18 years old (NSVR)

 

At first glance, these statistics are hard to believe. The fact that this many people have experiences some form of sexual assault or abuse is insane. But what is even more insane is that the majority of those who have experiences sexual assault failed to report it. 

I understand that sexual assault is a tough subject, some even consider it taboo. Openly speaking about such intimate and personal violation can be almost as traumatizing as enduring the assault itself. However, I truly believe that if we continue this trend of ignoring the problem and not acknowledging just how many people's lives are affected by this, it will never get better.

 

 

I know it is easy to simply say that we need to report instances of sexual assault, when the reality of doing so is often much harder than it may appear. I also know it is also easy for people who have never experienced sexual assault to overly simplify the situation without understanding how difficult and mortifying it can be. I, however, am not one of these people. 

I, too, have been a victim sexual assault. 

The incident happened during my junior year of high school. It just so happened to be picture day, so naturally I was dressed up, hair done, makeup done, and ready to go. My day was as normal as ever. I went to class, saw my friends, did some homework - the usual. It wasn't until I was leaving school later that afternoon that things took a turn for the worse. 

It was the tail-end of summer, and if you know anything about South Carolina weather, then you know that this meant afternoon rain storms. The parking situation on my high school campus was extremely limited, so I was forced to park my car off campus about five minutes away. Now, I was lucky enough that my dad was home most afternoons and could normally come pick me up and take me to my car in the event that it started raining (I lived like 5 minutes by car from the school so it wasn't a big inconvenience for him). 

 

On this particular day, my dad wasn't answering his phone. I called him about six or seven times because it was raining so hard that if I so much as stepped out from under the overhang in front of my school, I would have gotten completely soaked. So I waited. 

Something to understand is that during this time my school was under construction and the buses were forced to pick up students from the front of the school rather than an actual bus loop. This means that the area I was standing in was completely packed with other students waiting to be taken home. 

It was as I was standing there, calling my dad, minding my own business that it happened. I felt someone behind me reach forward and grab my butt. 

At first I was annoyed more than anything. I am the kind of person that values my personal space and gets highly frustrated when that is infringed upon. 

So, I turned around to find a group about 7 or so boys standing behind me. I calmly asked who had done it only receive wide-eyed looks and mumbled phrases like "what are you talking about" and "we didn't do anything" in response. 

I was not happy. More than anything, I was upset that whoever had touched me didn't have the nerve to own up to it. Regardless, it didn't seem like anyone was willing to speak up so I turned back around. 

Then it happened again, except this time the boy put his hand up my dress in an attempt to touch more than just my butt. 

Now, I was furious

A million thoughts rushed into my head. Was I not clear the first time when I told them not to touch me? Did they really think it was okay to violate my personal space like that? Did they ever once stop to think about how their actions might be affecting me? 

In a fit of rage, I left. I walked through pouring rain all the way to my car. By the time I got home I'm sure I looked like the equivalent of an extremely confused and angry wet mop. 

I immediately told my Dad what had happened. This was met with equal outrage on his part as he left to go talk to a school administrator. 

When all was said and done, I ended up filing a police report and the boy who did it was forced to seek some form of counseling to address his inappropriate behavior. 

Now, I now what some of you are probably thinking - what happened to her wasn't even that bad. 

And to some extent, you're right. 

I believe that while all sexual assault is unacceptable, some instances are far worse than others. I am by no means trying to place what happened to me on the same level as rape. 

However, I do think it is important to understand that sexual assault is a spectrum; it ranges from minor to much more severe acts. 

What happened to me was obviously much more minor, but it was still sexual assault. 

My personal space was violated. My feelings were ignored. The effects that this would have on me as a person were not even acknowledged, let alone considered. 

My hope in sharing my personal story is this: no matter how small, how minor, how insignificant something like this may seem, if you feel as if you have been violated, speak up. 

Again, I know how hard this can be for some people. But just remember that letting things like this slide only serves to worsen an enable the situation at hand. 

I didn't find out until much later that the boy who assaulted me had done the same thing to a number of other girls, and I was the first one to report it. Seeing me speak up against him encouraged other girls who had experienced much worse violations to speak up too. 

The bottom line is: sexual assault is a serious problem that will continue to grow in both frequency and intensity unless we do something about it. 

So in closing, I encourage all of you to do just that. Don't let little things slide for fear of being told you are "overreacting." Don't let other people tell you how to handle something that they very well may not understand. And for the love of God, do not accept the statement "boys will be boys" as an excuse. 

You are a person, your feelings matter, and you should never, EVER, be made to feel like they don't.