Putting risk and sexual assault in context

I cant remember exactly when I joined Facebook but I think it was sometime in 2008, so about three years ago. In that time I have been sexually harassed a number of times but two were particularly horrible. In one I was sent pornographic photos and the other, what I thought was a fairly banal and short conversation ended with an abrupt verbal assault. I didnt report the first one – it completely freaked me out and I just deleted everything but the second I did report. FB’s response was because I had engaged with the person there was nothing I could do. This felt to me like because the guy [a gay identified man] knocked on my door and I had invited him into my space for a chat, I had no defense against being raped. In other words it was my fault. Even though the second incident was relatively mild compared to the first, I felt horrible and turned off my FB for a couple of days. Once I had recovered from feeling shit and blaming myself because this hit me on a low and because I had been careless about people wanting to add me to their “friend” list, I started to feel really angry. What makes men think they can violate you and walk away. I remembered a comment left here a couple of weeks ago in response to a statement on “corrective rape” in South Africa in which the man described rape as “a bit over the top” but he could understand the reasoning behind the barbaric acts.

Men from Africa are seeing what is happening to men in North America and Europe. We are second class citizens. We are being turfed from the classroom and workplace at an alarming rate. There is no wonder African men feel defensive. While rape is a bit over-the-top, I can understand the reasoning behind their barbaric acts (though I do not condone violence).

I thought for a second of not publishing but changed my mind even though the comment itself acted as a violent trigger. I seriously believe that the majority of women in this world face some kind of sexual assault on an almost daily basis. And I seriously believe that the majority of men in this world are with their silence complicit in these assaults even when they are not the direct perpetrator.

Sometime ago I read this article by Amanda Taub at Wronging Rights. who puts “risk” and sexual assault in context. Just by the fact we are women we are always at risk – always.

And second of all, guess what? If women never went anywhere where we risked being sexually assaulted, we’d never go anywhere, period. We certainly couldn’t go to work on foreign aid projects. Or to U.S. military academies. Not to college. Not on dates. Not to parties. Not to bars. Or on cruises. Not to work as models. Or security contractors. Except that even if we never went any of those places, we’d still be screwed (pun intended) because of course a high percentage of rapes happen in the home, committed by perpetrators whom the victims know. Putting the responsibility on women to prevent sexual assault by restricting their own behavior – or on their employers to limit it for them – won’t actually solve the problem, it will just reinforce gendered norms about what “good” women “should” do.