The effects of sexual abuse can be extremely devastating, with the survivor experiencing a range of emotions about what has transpired and whether it is their fault or not. It is quite evident that in our society, which has normalised rape culture, the stigmatisation around being a rape survivor is brutal.
Recently, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to remark on why Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser didn’t report the attack immediately after it had happened. His statement suggested that perhaps the ordeal couldn’t possibly be ‘as bad as she says’.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
This sparked a social media hashtag #WhyIDidn’tReport where many women came forward and shared their stories on why they ‘didn’t say something sooner’ and why they didn’t speak out on what happened to them. Many highlighting the cost of this silence and others the potential cost of what it would have meant going to the authorities (or going public) with their ordeals.
Hey, @realDonaldTrump, Listen the fuck up.
I was sexually assaulted twice. Once when I was a teenager. I never filed a police report and it took me 30 years to tell me parents.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 21, 2018
Because I felt ashamed of what happened and didn’t want to publicly ruin someone’s life, even though they privately ruined mine #WhyIDidntReport
— Cara Delevingne (@Caradelevingne) September 27, 2018
I said no repeatedly. Begged him to stop. I tried to fight him off but he was way bigger than me. He was my ‘boyfriend’ and the next day slut shamed me at the football game. Everyone knew and thought I was a whore. #WhyIDidntReport
— ᏔᏔ (@W0nderW0manW0w) September 27, 2018
Let’s quickly unpack the ramifications of Trump’s statement so that we can paint a numerical picture of the world in which we live.
The number of girls under 20 worldwide who have experienced forced intercourse or other sexual-related acts in their lifetime.
The estimated number of women and girls, spanning 30 countries, who have undergone female genital mutilation.
The number of boys and girls who have experienced the trauma of violence in an environment that is supposed to be a safe space for learning and education.
1 in 3
Almost a third of women (35%) worldwide who have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime.
The common denominator in the above-mentioned is men. It is the social construct of manhood that continues to feed into the notion that a woman’s body belongs to her lover or partner.
#whyididntreport I was told that because he was my boyfriend, he was entitled to my body. I was told I let it happen because I gave up trying to stop him. I was told it was too late to call the police. I was told I led him on. (These are several different accounts) pic.twitter.com/sShSq9l2C7
— 🌙💖Moonchild💖🌙 (@notmooseiswear) September 28, 2018
It is this hypermasculine identity that informs the rape culture women experience in the workplace, at home, in conversations at a braai with friends. This is the reason many women are afraid to walk the streets at night. This debilitating fear that if you wear a short skirt, it may be misconstrued as an invitation to a potential perpetrator.
This policing of women’s bodies and sexualisation of little children is all rooted in how the international conversation around gender-based violence (GBV) and IPV have been about treating the symptoms of these inflictions on the bodies of women instead of dealing with the root cause of the problem – men.
This is the reason Trump (and every other man who has ever uttered words to the effect of Trump’s) feels they have the right to question the validity of a woman saying that she was violated. Acts of violence against women are among the most underreported crimes in the world for a myriad reasons, chief among these is gender inequality and systemic gender-based discrimination. And we know that the common problem across the board is that there is a lack of enforcement when it comes to authorities and police effectively responding to this violence.
We need to create safe spaces for sexual-violence survivors.
We need to ensure that survivors have access to medical care.
We need to work together to ensure that women and children are protected by the law.
We need to foster a society that doesn’t victimise sexual abuse survivors.
One way in which we can do this is by ensuring that the acceptance of sexual violence as the norm is no longer tolerated and that we call out those who make light of such situations and rally around the survivors to say we believe them and that we hear them.
— Jen (@aweebitblue) September 28, 2018
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