“1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime (World Health Organization, 2016)”
A few years ago, I was having dinner with some friends, I hadn’t seen these girls in a while. We’ve known each other since we were teens, sitting together now in our early to mid-twenties. The stat above was mentioned. All three of us had experienced sexual violence. All three of us in different ways, and we had never discussed it until that moment. In that precise moment the floodgates of things we, people we know personally, people we know professionally, we just poured everything on the table. I remember that day vividly. I remember what we wore, where we were, where we were sitting, what time it was, I remember everything. It was the first time I acknowledged and shared with others what happened.
‘There are three levels of sexual assault in Canada:
• Level one sexual assaults cause little or no physical injury
• Level two sexual assaults involve a weapon, threat, or bodily harm
• Level three sexual assaults involve physical wounds, disfigurement, or threaten the life of the survivor’
The thing about sexual assault is that sometimes you don’t know it’s happening and/or happened until months or years down the road. The umbrella of sexual assault is so vast that what falls under it sometimes gets lost. And when you are the victim? It’s hard to accept that that’s what happened.
Being deceived, being too intoxicated, being manipulated, being threatened physically or emotionally, being harassed are all versions of assault we tend to brush off. Especially when we know the perpetrator.
While sexual assault is disproportionately occurring to women, 1 in 6 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
A friend of mine shared how years ago he was at the bar with his girlfriend, while he was ordering a drink a man reached over and grabbed his genitals. My friend was lost, shocked, and confused. He froze. When sharing this story, he said he now understands how people freeze during these situations, that when the agency of your body is forcibly taken from you – you freeze.
Another friend of mine was having intercourse with his partner, his partner without informing him removed the condom. That is assault. It does not matter that they were in a relationship. That. Is Assault. He consented to safe sex, that was taken from him. His trust obliterated, and now to this day, he is rightfully in fear of relationships.
Not disclosing STIs to your partner until after intercourse is assault. It is deception, manipulation, and an abuse of trust. And depending on how long until you disclose, you risk that person now spreading and or living with something they did not know they needed to be watchful for.
It’s upsetting that the ones who did not ask to be assaulted are the ones living with the repercussions. Shying away from physical contact, avoiding social settings, leaning into drugs or alcohol, alienating themselves, displacing themselves, etc. Where I live the local Sexual Assault Centre currently has a one-year waiting period to speak to a sexual assault counselor. The intake worker said that they have people who are sometimes on the list for a year before they get a introductory session. A waitlist to deal with trauma.
I can go on and on about how women are shamed and taught “ways not to be raped”. I can go on and on about how men are not taught on how not to be perpetrators. I can go on and on about how our resources are depleted and stretch thin, how our law enforcement struggles to comprehend/deal with sexual violence cases, how society tends to fall silent on the perpetrators who clearly still lie in their social circle. But, I won’t. It’s too exhausting. To be frank, we should all know this information or seek it out. 1 in 3 women? 1 in 6 men? You know someone who’s been sexually assaulted.
With all that being said I just want to remind everyone of one very important thing.
Consent is sexy. Consent is the verbal (and enthusiastic) confirmation that someone wants you. Having agency of your body and sharing it with someone who has agency of theirs, respectfully that is a beautiful thing.