In the past few years, so many prominent public figures have been accused of sexual harassment or assault.
This event has inspired a movement that encourages women to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault.
The #MeToo hashtag even reached Canada recently, where a student claimed she was raped in November and did not report it because the assailant was one of the university’s most prominent professors.
Sexual assault and harassment are some of those seemingly impossible, almost too horrific for words, events that happen to someone you know.
According to research, just over two percent of women in their lifetime experience sexual assault
But how do we really know if we have experienced it?
Some of us experience this by being preyed upon in a crowded room, others through the mob mentality of a crowd in a bar, and some of us more frequently through comments and dirty looks.
If you have ever experienced sexual assault or harassment, you know that it is different from the things that you hear and see in films or television.
Sexual assault and harassment is a series of insidious actions that occur over a period of time and through a vast number of situations and the perpetrator isn’t always someone you know and someone you trust.
Sexual assault and harassment are physical, mental, and emotional. When it happens, it changes you.
First and foremost, it changes your mind
You no longer believe in a victim mentality, but a survivor. You no longer have that victim’s voice, but a strong survivor voice.
It can take years for a victim of sexual assault to even know that what happened to them was sexual assault because they’ve become so accustomed to not being believed.
And often they won’t tell anyone they were sexually assaulted because they worry they will not be believed or that it will lead to more harassment or assault.
It can be very hard to come forward and take action. If the action took place at a bar, it can seem like there is nothing you can do to stop it from happening again.
If you were sexually assaulted and they were already friends with the perpetrator, it can seem like there is nothing you can do to stop them from telling the story or getting revenge.
Coming forward is not easy, especially if it happened to you when you were a child
In fact, it is a very common psychological defense mechanism for victims of sexual assault to blame themselves or make themselves believe that it was their fault.
They may even begin to believe that what happened was consensual, which makes it more confusing to them to even want to report it.
If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment, you will be in your ‘pain body’ for a very long time.
Pain is one of the most prominent feelings that will come from being the victim of sexual assault or harassment.
In fact, when you are in pain you have a heightened need to escape, which is what you may feel in a crowded bar or a crowded room.
It is really difficult to escape the body that has experienced such horrific pain
Even your instincts as a victim of sexual assault may not always be in your favor.
For example, if you did not want anyone to know you were sexually assaulted, you may continue to pretend to enjoy sex because you don’t want to hurt your partner.
You may also ignore the burning pain of your genitalia, which in some cases can become permanent.
Your sexual partners will often comment on how little you are wearing or how you are too inexperienced, and this is not always intentional.
For example, they may be unaware that they are touching you in a way that feels uncomfortable.
We can be at risk of several sexual assaults
Being physically and mentally healthy, practicing self-care, knowing your rights, calling 911 and if necessary going to the police, using public transportation, and avoiding the victim being alone are all important things to consider when deciding to enter a victim mentality.
It is important to be able to tell the difference between what is a fluke experience and something that is going to stick with you for life.
Sexual assault, and more specifically rape, affects both genders. Rape is the most underreported crime in the world.
According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 56 percent of sexual assault victims report their assaults to the police.
Thirty-five percent will delay doing so by six months to one year, seven percent will delay it for over a year, and 12 percent will delay it for over a year to two years.
Even if a victim decides to report the rape, there is still a lot of hurdles in their way
The process of a rape case to be heard can take over two years to complete.
There can be many reasons why the victim does not choose to testify.
Victims are more likely to not report if it can make them look guilty of something and they don’t have evidence to prove it happened.
When it comes down to it, many victims just do not want to relive the experience of their assault over and over again.
There is a saying that comes from an Academy Award-winning movie called “Amelia,” the fictional story of a girl who was kidnapped as a young girl and raped, that can be applied to all victims:
“The past is like a shoe you always have to hold onto to stay balanced.”
This doesn’t mean that you have to carry your pain around with you forever, but you do need to keep the focus of what happened in mind so you can be a stronger person.