Sexual assault, abuse, and violence continue to become a huge problem across the globe. Although individuals and organizations like Gabriela exist to advocate for better protection, women remain vulnerable to sexual injustices. Human and sexual trafficking and forced prostitution affect the lives of young women globally. And, this phenomenon does not limit itself to third-world or developing countries.
Despite high awareness, women remain vulnerable to sexual assault
Women grappling with sexual abuse deal with mental and emotional trauma. Aside from that, the experience also leads to permanent physical injuries and unwanted pregnancies. With that said, little girls have to learn how to escape from certain situations at such a young age. Despite high awareness and so many people united against sexual violence, the problem continues to persist.
Equality and respect for women is not universally held principle.
In many regions, women’s rights lag behind men’s. So, we remain at an immediate disadvantage for personal security. And, when cultural ideals don’t recognize women’s right to freedom and safety, supporting institutions like government, law enforcement, and education probably don’t either. This results to an unbreakable cycle of discrimination that leads to negative outcomes for women.
Most rapists are not held accountable for their actions.
60 percent of sexual assaults remain unreported, and those who do not come under scrutiny don’t always lead to justice for victims. Only three of every rapist ever serve jail time for their crimes. Stricter interpretation of laws and just sentencing remain potential remedies to lax enforcement and prosecution, which would also reinforce society’s commitment to protecting women from sexual assault.
Every day (especially, night) is dangerous for women.
Mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed and tapping through Stories, I stopped when I read a horrifying encounter. Renee van Veldhuizen posted on Facebook and Maria Koutsogiannis shared it on her Instagram account. The post read:
“On Sunday night, I drove home from a get-together at around 11:445 PM. Initially, some of the people I hung out with drove behind me / in front of me until we split and I remained on the road alone. From the second my friends no longer accompany me, I noticed a car driving behind me. They didn’t tailgate me or obviously follow me, but I definitely noticed them there.”
The horrifying encounter.
“They drove behind me for about 15 minutes until I stopped at the streetlights outside of the Rockyview Hospital. At this point, the car pulled up beside me, parked and four men got out. They surrounded my car and positioned themselves at every door on my car and started pulling on the handles to get inside.”
“Luckily, my doors were locked and they didn’t get very far. But my doors don’t lock automatically as I drive. So, I’m lucky that locking them myself became a habit I have… I ended up slamming on the gas pedal and running the red light. They didn’t follow me home and I was safe for the remainder of the drive. I’m thinking they probably watched me get into my car, and stayed behind until my friends drove off.”
The sexualization of young girls.
At such a young age, girls had to learn that adult men sexualize them whatever they wear, whatever they do, and wherever they may be. They had to learn how to protect themselves while their male counterparts continue to play and enjoy being boys. According to the American Psychological Association, sexualization occurs when “individuals are regarded as sex objects and evaluated in terms of their physical characteristics and sexiness.”
Children should never have to contend with these. Men who view girls (and women) as sex objects exists. Meanwhile, girls develop anxieties failing to meet popular standards of beauty. Girls, as they grow up, become self-conscious about their sexual attractiveness. Aside from that, it makes people think that being sexually empowered hinder with intellectual performance. The sexualization of young girls affects the way ordinary people, especially men, regard kids.
“What about men?! Men get sexually assaulted, too.”
Matt Bernstein continues to be an advocate for feminism and gender equality among others. He recently posted about sexual assault on his Instagram account. Men in his comments, and across social media, respond to the discussion of sexual assault with, “What about men?! Men get sexually assaulted, too.”
Matt responded with, “You are absolutely correct! They do. Sexual harassment and assault happen to people of all genders. I (a boy, mostly) experienced sexual harassment from both straight and gay men many times since I turned 15. Sexual violence towards men is an important and often ignored issue.”
Matt Bernstein responds:
“However, I don’t think many of the men yelling ‘What about men?’ actually care about men’s safety or sexual violence towards men. I don’t think they want to make meaningful changes to improve this issue. I think they want to derail a conversation that’s supposed to be about men taking accountability for the violence they inflict on women + nonbinary people. I’m all for discussion on sexual violence towards men, but let’s give the current moment space and attention it deserves.”
Yes, men get raped, too. And, let’s not ignore that.
Although that remains the case, it shouldn’t divert attention from the ongoing fight against the crimes that usually happen to women all around the world. The fight has always been against men who harass women, never the other way around. Centuries of patriarchy and the ideas of men being the dominant sex have existed. It became the reason why we have a societal culture where men can commit crimes against women.
But, it does exist.
You can debate whether it needs attention or not. However, we shouldn’t forget that this remains a reality despite its minuscule percentage. The thing about those comments, though, is that those men don’t really care about the crimes committed. They just want to shut us up for speaking out. And when this happens, they just go on and victimize the men and women who suffered from these experiences.
In most cases, men rape men and in a minuscule percentage of cases, women rape men. We have to acknowledge that much like any other mammal, the erectile response of males remains involuntary. Mechanical stimulation is all that is necessary. Sometimes, not even that. Although erect, it does not necessarily mean he wanted to have sex and he consented to it.
We should be advocating the fight against sexual assault against both men and women.
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.