Sexual Assault: When There Is No Safe Word

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“The silence was killing me. And that’s all there ever was. Silence. It was all I knew. Keep quiet. Pretend nothing had happened, that nothing was wrong. And look how well that was turning out.” ― J. Lynn, Wait for You

Sexual assault is a heavy, convoluted topic with much emotion and confusion, not just about the assault itself, but the laws associated with it, the legal definitions of what is punishable in a court of law vs. the definitions that advocacy groups use to define sexual assault, and then the weight of dealing with the justice system. According to the law, which can vary from state to state, being sexually assaulted isn’t just being penetrated against our will (which is rape in Georgia, but only if we are a woman), or being molested as a child, it can also mean being touched (even while we are dressed) on areas of our body that are generally considered to be private and personal, areas like our bottom, our groin or inner thighs and our breasts (in Georgia law, this is called sexual battery).

And while there is no gray area when it comes to sexual assault (it’s a form of violence no matter what), there can be a very unsure feeling when we are sexually assaulted by people we know, trust, or otherwise feel a connection with. Have you ever hugged someone whose hand traveled a little too far south or purposely tried to cop a feel of side-boob? Have you ever gotten a little too intoxicated and started to have sex with someone then realized it would be a big mistake and tried to stop but he or she wouldn’t? Have you ever had intercourse that got to be too painful, but the other person kept going despite your attempts to communicate your discomfort?

The thing is, is that MOST sexual assault is committed by people we know. Sometimes the language used out there by advocacy groups and the law make it seem like there are people laying in wait, always at the ready to assault us, but the fact is we know these people. We trust them, we are friends with them, and sometimes, we want to have sex with them! Until suddenly we realize that there is no safe word that they will respond to, and then the sex gets scary and confusing because we live in a society that blames victims and so we blame ourselves. We harbor shame and anger and fear. This is not okay!! And that’s where Sexual Assault Awareness steps in!

We have resources available to us and we need to use them. If we feel in any way that we have been sexually assaulted then we need reach out to the appropriate organization. There are professional people who understand exactly what we are going through emotionally. They will not blame us, they will not start a question with “Well, why did you____”, they will help us process what has happened and connect us to other resources that may help us make it right.

This week is Sexual Assault Awareness Week. You’ll notice The Clothesline Project in the Russell Union and the lobby of the RAC and can stop by either location to design your own shirt to tell your story. Then join us on Thursday 7pm at the GSU Bookstore to Take Back The Night as we march through campus and end with a rally at the Russell Union Rotunda.

In April, you men out there can show your support and solidarity to your women counterparts by Walking A Mile In Her Shoes. The more we understand and empathize with others, the less violence occurs.

We at  University Wellness care about sexual assault because it affects the Seven Dimensions of wellness and throws us off our game. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and let us know how Sexual Assault Awareness Week raised your awareness!

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