Ellen Muggorsky | Guest Contributor
When I was sexually assaulted, I was not asking for it. When I was sexually assaulted for the first, second and third time, I was not asking for it.
I would like to share this personal account with you, not to scare you or to shock you, but in an honest attempt to dispel stereotypes. I wish not to instill fear but bring thoughtful perspective to a thoughtless crime. I would like to emphasize the word crime. See, despite the fact that 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted, some still lack the understanding of a few basic constructs so let me lay this down to you.
According to the criminal code of Canada, consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be a voluntary, sober, enthusiastic, informed, mutual, honest and verbal agreement. However, even if an individual is of sound mind and body and are able to consent, does not mean that they do consent. If someone says or does something that shows they are not consenting to an activity or incapable of being able to consent, it is not consent. Also, there are other ways to show you are not consenting other than screaming no at the person. It is common for a victim to freeze under the traumatic circumstances; this is not consent. If you do not get consent, it can be sexual assault. Sexual assault is defined as sexual contact with another person without the other person’s consent. Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy, forcible object penetration, unwanted sexual touching, or any unwanted or coerced sexual contact.
Furthermore, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, sexual assault is also dependant on both the areas of contact and the sexual nature of the act. If it violates the sexual integrity of an individual, it can be classified as sexual assault. It also depends on the satiation in situation in which the contact occurred, the words and gestures accompanying the act as well as the circumstances and if threats were present.
All of the concepts discussed above are often lost within society. The true and legal definitions and the ideas that encompass the sexual rights of every individual are not talked about. Or misunderstood. Or misinterpreted. As a person, you are entitled to make your own sexual decisions and stop any sexual activity at any time; whether during or before. It is also your right to be able to tell anyone that you are not comfortable with the way they hug or kiss you. To ask a partner if they have been tested for STI’s. To sexual privacy, equality, emotional sexual expression and pleasure.
For me, it took me years to realize that the first time I was sexually assaulted actually counted as a crime because I didn’t know my rights or understand what consent was. Not because I didn’t believe in it, but because no one ever explained what it was to me. All I knew at the time was the incident made me feel confused and upset. I slid those feelings under the rug.
Our society has slid the sexual assault epidemic under the rug, and I’d like to challenge that.
I would like to start the conversation and more importantly the education of this true travesty created and attempt to educate sexual beings or any beings at all in a community which so thoroughly encourages knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of the world around us.
When you are a victim of a crime, it is normally an abnormal event. When you get upset, confused, angry or ashamed of the incidence, you reacting to an abnormal event. It is normal. That’s why it’s called trauma.
I think one of the biggest problems after enduring the assault was the feelings that came. I went through them all. I was as textbook as they come in terms of a situation that isn’t textbook at all. I thought that I was being dramatic. That it was my fault and that I should be ashamed. Do you know who should be ashamed? The perpetrator, because no matter what, the only person that is at fault is them. Shame on them for not treating a human being with the kindness or respect they deserved. Shame on them for being cruel, and violating the sacred temple of the human body.
When someone assaults you, it is so easy to think untrue thoughts. To believe what the media and what North American Rape culture taught us, because it is so deeply ingrained in the societal constructs we encounter every day. We get exposed to horrible acts and get drowned with negative news by the media which allows us to be de-sensitized to the crimes. We hear about the celebrities being accused and rarely convicted or accidentally make a new celebrity out of a disgrace to mankind that exemplified white privilege and sexism to a tee; Brock Turner. Or worse, we meme it. We poke fun and brush off pain and suffering without a shred of remorse as minute as the world’s tiniest violin.
I would like to breed understanding, and empathy. I would like to be very clear: empathy. Not sympathy. Know the difference.
Honestly, for a victim of sexual assault. Personally, for me, nothing you can say makes it better. You can’t take it back, you can’t make it ok. The healing comes from within. You can love them and care for them and support them in whatever ways required. But do not think it is your duty to tell them how it is. Even if you are a victim yourself, we all react and experience trauma different. Because humans are unique, with unique personalities and perspectives. I think the biggest gift you can give someone trying to be ok after, is the ability to talk about it. To allow them to use their voice and express themselves and start the long road of healing.
One of my first steps of healing was me starting to understand that my feelings of worthlessness and shame and guilt were wrong. Some of those feelings stemmed from my own personal misunderstandings and ideas that were put in my head by media or from other individuals. I would partly like to attribute this to a common phenomenon: blaming the individual. “Oh, they shouldn’t have been walking alone at night,” “they shouldn’t have dressed like that or flirted,” “they need to be more careful, they brought it upon themselves”.
What I would like to remind is that despite the cruel culture that has been bred, the stereotypes are wrong: We did not ask for it. We did not deserve it. We are not sluts. We are worthy of respect and love, always.
For me, it’s those misconceptions that kept me quite. That kept me from feeling ok and has kept me tossing and turning at night. I was so ashamed that I let it happen because for a while I believed that it was like 1+1=2. That if it happened to me then I was in the wrong because I put myself in a position that wasn’t safe or that I was careless enough to not remain safe at all times. I had to be a careless slut. Except, I wasn’t. I took all the care in the world. And when I did get assaulted I wasn’t scantily dressed or under the influence of cocaine and alcohol. I am so sorry that I believed this. I hate the word slut. I hate that other girls even use the word because that is a negative word which brings shames to girls who are sexually liberated and actively seek personal pleasure and express themselves in ways in which I don’t know how. I would not like to bring shame to any of the people who do engage in these activities and life choices, I know better now and I hope that this insight will help others work towards an informed level of understanding. It never crossed my mind that this crime doesn’t discriminate. Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It can happen to people with any sexual identity, processing any relationship status, no matter the age, ethnicity, personality, weight or social status.
In conclusion, it is not your fault if you were sexually assaulted. You did not ask for it and you are worthy of love and kindness and compassion. Everyone is. Your experience does not make you broken or defective and do not let it define your entire being, because you are so much more. You are the way you laugh at a good joke and the way you make other people feel. I hope that no matter what, that everyone can take away some level of perspective from this discussion and realize how important it is to treat others with respect, whether that be at school, and the gym, or in the bedroom. Let the enthusiastic yes ring in your ears every single time.