Sexual assault perpetrated against anyone is not okay. Having agency over one’s body is an inalienable right—one that is too often violated. This violation can begin in childhood by well-meaning parents. You can’t teach your children how to properly protect themselves against bodily infringements unless you respect your child saying no to you.
Some examples I have seen of parents overriding their child’s desires when it comes to their body are forcing them to kiss and hug people when it’s clear the child does not want to, tickling when the child has asked you to stop and corporal punishment. How do you justify teaching your children they have the right to say no when you override that right?
It is important as parents to arm your children with both the knowledge that their body is their own and the confidence to speak up to control who interacts with their body. Did you know that one in three girls will be sexually molested by the time they turn 18, and one in five or six boys? It is suspected that the male statistic is lower because of cultural inhibitions for reporting. Another way to arm your children against sexual abuse is to teach them the proper names for body parts. Penis and vagina are not bad words, and you will be giving them the tools to effectively communicate if anything were to happen. It is also important for your children to know that no matter what any perpetrator may threaten them with, it is important that they never keep a “touching” secret. If anyone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and they were told to keep it a secret, that is exactly when they need to tell and keep telling until someone believes them.
The industry of sex trafficking forces people and children into this work against their wills. Through being manipulated, drugged or threatened, these victims believe there is no choice but to comply. This inhumane, foul practice is one of the oldest industries in human culture; it is still available anywhere in the world. I learned in a sex trafficking workshop run by the FBI that there isn’t a place in the world where a person can’t satisfy whatever perversion they please, often with partners who are victims of a situation exceedingly difficult to escape. This is illegal, of course, but because of the way business is conducted and the terror these victims live with every day, it is challenging to put those in charge behind bars. These operations flourish because there are people with criminal appetites willing to sexually assault these victims for their own perverted pleasure.
What about the he said/she said disputes of date rape? Women are often raped by people they trust. Date rape was called to attention in the ’90s when Katie Koestner became the first woman to come out to speak about her experience. The young man she was dating allegedly raped her after taking her back to her dorm room after a lovely candlelit dinner at a nice restaurant. Katie was a virgin and not yet ready to engage in that level of intimacy with her boyfriend. He didn’t care; he imagined he had earned that right after buying Katie a nice dinner. How many people can relate to this experience? A Google search indicated: “One out of every five teens are victims of date rape. Rape prevalence among women in the U.S. is in the range of 15 to 20 percent with different studies disagreeing with each other.”
Is it possible to be sexually assaulted if you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol? I would answer that if your companion is too drunk or high to provide consent, you should not engage that person in sexual activity. If he or she is too impaired to participate in the act, then don’t do it, even if you believe they want to.
We have always been taught about the fight or flight response when someone is fearful, but there is another option: freeze. Many women, when being sexually assaulted, freeze. Why? There is a tendency to make oneself as small as possible so as not to be noticed. You see this when people hide under beds, in closets or under desks. It happens when there is little chance of getting away or winning a fight. When an average woman is up against an average man, she is typically not going to be able to get away or win a fight, so the obvious response is to freeze, which may be taken as consent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are about to initiate a sexual act, please wait until you have consent. In the absence of consent, please stop.
Just last week, I was speaking with a man in his 80s who had just learned that marital rape was illegal. He was so outraged that women can file complaints of rape against their husbands that he wanted to leave the country. I realize this man grew up in a different time, but who can believe that marriage is a ticket to have sex anytime, anywhere, however the husband wants it from his wife? This is the archaic idea that once a woman becomes a wife, she becomes the man’s property to do with as he pleases.
I’d like to end this article with a slogan I saw on a “Take Back the Night” sign: “Mine to Give; Not Yours to Take.” Please wait for consent.