Editor’s note: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted in college before graduation. In order to protect her identity, we chose to keep the writer anonymous.
“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no.” “Claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand, take back the night.” These were some of the chants that echoed across Fairfield Way as part of UConn’s SlutWalk on Oct. 7.
The main goal of the SlutWalk, according to student group Revolution Against Rape’s president Megan Burke, is to end the idea that a victim is in any way responsible for his or her sexual assault. Signs carried messages reading, “Silence is not consent” and “stop blaming alcohol, start blaming rapists.”
Until it happens to you, it’s all too easy to think, “Well, she was drunk” or “That girl always was kind of a flirt.” I have to admit that even I have questioned the legitimacy of sexual assault stories that I have read or even heard personally.
When I was sexually assaulted, my whole perspective on sexual violence changed. I do not doubt the 43 victims who reported being sexually assaulted at UConn in 2014. I do not doubt Brock Turner’s victim. I do not doubt the women coming forward with stories of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump or the “two sexual assault stories per second” received by Kelly Oxford when leaked footage of Trump talking about having his way with women was made public on Oct. 7.
Victim blaming and the aftermath of a sexual assault may be more difficult, in a way, to deal with than the actual assault itself. For me, there was the fact that people who claimed to be my friends and who said they wanted to help me, questioned my story. They highlighted the fact that I was drunk when I was assaulted, that I am friendlier and even more outgoing than I already am when under the influence of alcohol.
This shouldn’t be a point of discussion after an assault. A friend should not tell others that she doesn’t think people are being fair enough to the rapist, that people are being biased towards the victim. If feeling sympathy and trying to get justice for a sexual assault victim is biased, there is something severely wrong.
I realize that there is a small percentage of reported assaults that are false. According to the Washington Post, a study conducted by the Making a Difference project found that seven percent of sexual assault cases were classified as false. The Washington Post said that this study is “the only research conducted in the U.S. to evaluate the percentage of false reports made to law enforcement,” citing the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women.
Although it is not unheard of for people to make up accounts of sexual assault, victims should not all be lumped together and blamed for what happened to them. Women should be able to wear what they want, go out for drinks and dance with who they want without the fear that the night will end in someone not taking “no” for an answer.
It does not matter what she was wearing, how many drinks she had or who she went out with. It does not matter that he was her friend, that he made a joke about it the next morning in an attempt to make it all go away. It was not her fault.
The worst thing that someone who has been through sexual assault can hear is doubt in someone’s voice when his or her story is told. Being told that maybe you shouldn’t have had that much to drink does not help the issue. Being told that you should have been out with more people does not change the facts of what happened.
What will help is support and action. Events such as UConn’s SlutWalk give students a voice against sexual assault, but I fear that nothing is ever enough, and I have no idea what it will take to stop rape from happening.
What can help is starting at the smallest level. Instead of grouping all sexual assault victims under this umbrella term, which I hate – “sexual assault victims” – let them speak for themselves. Don’t tell them what they should have been wearing, should have not been drinking, should have not been doing.
Tell them that you will listen, that you will do something when the “creepy drunk” at the party starts being aggressive. Do something when you see a random guy walk by and grab a girl’s backside at the bar. Instead of blaming the victim the next day, blame the rapist, and don’t let people get away with treating women’s bodies as though they’re theirs for the taking.