I’m not a victim, I am a survivor. I’m not a person, I am a woman. I’m not shackled, I am free.
I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to write this post. It was a heated conversation with my mother that finally convinced me that I needed to. I realized that far too many people stay silent when a single voice could shatter the stigma.
We were at the gas station, going about our day when a random woman walked by in a revealing outfit. My mom shocked me with what came out of her mouth next, “Well, she’s just asking for it.” It was like a sucker punch to my gut, I was rendered speechless for about 10 seconds until I asked, “Asking for what?”. She couldn’t even say the words, she just replied with, “You know what.” It was like someone pulled the trigger inside my head and I was angrier than words could express. At first, I thought she was joking around, even though it wasn’t funny. But then I realized she was dead serious. She felt that the outfit this woman wore was a green light for unwanted touching and sexual assault.
I felt sick. I feel sick now remembering it. How could my mother, a woman and a survivor, believe that? How could any woman believe that wearing revealing clothes was the same as giving consent? Or that a woman deserved to be assaulted because she wore something that showed skin? How have we come so far with so little progression?
Women have been persecuted and shamed since the beginning of time. Made to feel inferior to man and treated like disposable objects. According to RAINN,
Every 98 seconds, an American experiences sexual assault.
What’s even worse is that many of those who are assaulted never report the crime. They feel like it’s their fault, that they asked for it because of something they said or something they wore. The truth is no one has the right to touch anyone without permission, we’re taught that in kindergarten but I don’t think it has sunk in. It is never okay for a man to touch, grope, or fondle a woman against her will. That is sexual assault and it doesn’t matter if you’re fully clothed or butt naked.
Your Body, Your Choice
The news has been riddled with women from all walks of life standing up to their assailants. I’ve heard too many people say “There’s no way that many people were sexually assaulted.” and “You know at least some of them are lying.” I’ve also heard “Dressed like that, what did she expect?” and “It’s a shame, lying about that man like that.” The really scary thing is I’ve heard these things from women. I grew up listening and watching women tear each other down and drag each other through the mud.
I’ve never understood it. Don’t we deserve to feel safe and not shamed? Instead of denying and ignoring what’s going on, can’t we unite and face it together? I truly believe women are the backbone of society – mothers, doctors, wives, friends… We deserve the right to our own bodies, we deserve the right to say “NO, that’s not okay“. We deserve to be able to report sexual assault without being questioned about our involvement. And we deserve to wear and say the things we want, without fear of being raped and assaulted.
But how many of us can truly say we feel like we deserve these things? As long as society tells us “you’re asking for it” and “you shouldn’t have….” we’ll never be able to fully embrace the right to our own bodies. To change society we must change ourselves. The next time you hear someone say something you don’t agree with, speak out. Your voice could be the change we’re waiting to see. It’s time to stop tearing each other down and start lifting each other up. Be the change you want to see.
Together we’re strong, United we’re unstoppable