Rape, sexual assault, molestation, and other sexual traumas are far too common throughout our society. So many people have experienced sexual traumas in their lives; unfortunately, it is much more common than might actually be fathomed. Pediatricians, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and first responders are those who may often have interactions with patients or clients who are victims and survivors of sexual traumas. They are those who often work with individuals following sexual traumas, though I am one who is also interested in teaching about the respect and protection of the human body in order that sexual traumas may be lessened and/or prevented in our society.
Last year, writer and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell shared five objectives regarding how men, particularly young men, can be respectful of women’s humanity rather than viewing women as sexual objects. Maxwell’s objectives were in regard to addressing the issue that women do not need guns to protect ourselves from rape because that places the blame on the victim/survivors, rather than placing responsibility on the offender.
I agree with that. Society still often blames and stigmatizes victims and survivors, though I have observed that to be changing slowly as a result of more survivors speaking out about their experiences. Speaking out is a good thing for many reasons. It helps survivors heal, it can help provide information that protects others from experiencing sexual trauma, and it helps reduce and/or eliminate societal blame, revictimization, and stigmas experienced by survivors.
Also important to address is that people of all ages and backgrounds can be sex offenders, whether or not they have been charged and/or prosecuted. Research that I, myself, have completed in this area has reflected that those who experience sexual traumas by others may be infants, children, teens, or adults. It is also important to state that males an females may experience sexual traumas, and that those sexual traumas may be perpetrated by males and/or females, as well. This is not an issue, therefore, that solely affects women, but also is a worldwide issue that affects our entire society.
That stated, a focus that I would like to bring to this post is in relation to protecting and educating young men about the humanity and integrity of young women’s bodies. A particular focus in these respects is one that I direct toward male undergraduates and male entrants into the military. Perhaps, then, a focus can be on stopping and/or preventing rape, as well as including language that focuses on protecting and respecting women’s bodies.
In my experience as an undergraduate college student, I am aware that there are those college men who rape, who encourage their male peers to rape, and who believe that rape is sex. Both my experience and that I have observed includes the views of some college men who are fraternity members and football players. It is the attitudes and behaviors of some of these men who reflect negatively on their peers.
Similar attitudes and behaviors are increasing in regard to many men in the military. Those who rape and sexually traumatize others cause and perpetuate trauma, particularly when much of our society still appears to blame, stigmatize, and revictimize survivors. Survivors of sexual trauma should not be viewed as, nor treated as criminals; offenders should receive consequences, treatment, and be held accountable and responsible.
Another focus that I would like to state in this post is to share with young women, teen girls, and others who may be targeted for sexual trauma, ways in which to potentially protect themselves from it. No matter how much one may work to protect oneself, it may not prevent or stop a sexual trauma from occurring, though such information is more helpful to know than not to. One red flag to recognize is when a boy or young man is repeatedly pressuring, particularly about sex and/or drinking alcohol. An objective of teen boys and young men who rape is to get a target drunk and/or spike alcohol with the pill known as the date rape drug.
One way to immediately protect oneself from this is to be aware of and recognize when a male is being pressuring regarding sex and/or drinking alcohol, and to remove oneself from that situation as quickly as possible. Regarding some males, as soon as a female says, “No,” that becomes a cue for them to work more quickly toward raping their target. So, in order to excuse oneself from such a situation, a female should not draw attention to feeling uncomfortable, wanting to leave, or desiring to return home, but should use some other excuse to leave the situation that will not escalate any potential for the male to commit sexual trauma toward her.
Other ways for females to protect ourselves is to recognize and be aware of males who are members of college fraternities, football and/or other sports teams, and who are in the military. This also applies to males who serve in professions that support a strong male patriarchy and hierarchy, including the Catholic Church and other employers or volunteer organizations. Unfortunately, males in many male groups often protect each other with a code of silence regarding offenses and/or crimes that may occur by their members. When such offenses are brought to the attention of their superiors or the authorities, they may continue to be protected by other males, however it is important for such offenses to be officially reported and documented.
Something else for females to keep in mind is that some males believe that rape is sex, and that if they want it, they are going to “take” it by whatever means necessary. Because some males believe that their action of raping another is sex, they seem to think they are “being men,” experiencing a “rite of passage,” and being “one of the guys.” They may brag to peers about their sexual prowess, and how a female who was targeted was “easy,” “slutty,” or “trashy,” thus causing other male peers to become interested in targeting her, as well. Females must be aware that males talk, and that their talk among each other may not reflect a realistic or accurate portrait of what occurred. So, when other males appear “interested,” females must be aware that their interest may not be genuine, but may be based only on the inaccurate perspectives received from the males’ peer(s).
A big disadvantage for women in our society is that society teaches girls to always be agreeable, cooperative, and nice, and to look up to males, respecting them and holding them in high esteem. Certainly, many males are worthy of trust, respect, and being viewed positively. However, for girls who become women who have been taught to trust, respect, and view positively those who should not be, they may be more easily targeted for and experience sexual traumas. Those who target others seek vulnerability. Those who have any potential for being targeted should be aware of this, and also be aware of the other ways identified and described in this post to protect themselves.
Again, when a person experiences sexual trauma, the person who was the offender should be held responsible and accountable, not the survivor or victim. A person may take every action to try to protect herself or himself from sexual trauma, and it may still occur. Therefore, it is imperative for the survivor to know that he or she is not at fault and not to blame. Those who offend have had experiences and/or learning that causes them to believe that it is acceptable for them to commit sexual offenses and/or traumas against others.
If you know of anyone who has experienced sexual trauma, consider going with them to report the crime. Consider accompanying them to their doctor. Perhaps, refer them to and go with them to a rape crisis agency. There are trained professionals who are very sensitive toward survivors of sexual traumas, and there are other trained professionals who are not sensitive at all, but blaming and revictimizing. Survivors and victims of sexual traumas must be supported on their journey to healing. And, society must take every possible action to educate about and protect people of all ages from experiencing sexual traumas. Respecting and honoring others and their bodies is all-important in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.