Victims of sexual abuse, most often than not, are held captive by their own silence. Why so? More than the embarrassment of admitting that they have gone through such a traumatic experience, they risk the possibility of being ridiculed “for asking for it”, shunned by their family and friends for calling such “shameful” attention to themselves and the people around them, or being judged as a liar or extortionist by the law, especially if the accused has power and authority. When a victim of sexual abuse breaks her silence, she opens herself up to possibly more hurt before any real help is in sight. That is why silence appears to be an attractive option for them, but will it really help?
Sexual Abuse and Assault
“Sexual assault is NOT a crime of passion, driven by a strong desire for sex; it is a violent crime driven by a desire for dominance. Most perpetrators of sexual assault have access to consensual sex with someone other than the victim…Sexual assault happens because a perpetrator believes that they are entitled to have sex or sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. – http://web.stanford.edu/
This definition emphasizes two things in the perpetrator: the desire for dominance and the belief of entitlement. By this very definition, the fault clearly falls on the perpetrator and not the victim. So why is it that the victim has to carry the stigma and the trauma for the criminal act? Worse, the perpetrator seem to wield an unseen power over their victims long after the crime has been done, cowering them into silence and digging them deeper into depression.
The Victim’s Profile
Many sexual abuse victims are young children, as offenders often use the victims’ trusting attitude towards a known adult. Records would show however that anyone can be a possible victim, regardless of age or gender. What the offender needs is simply the opportunity to carry it out. In the Philippines, sexual abuse/assault is an acknowledged major form of abuse as seen on the Comparative Statistics on Violence Against Women. Consider the words of a father who confirmed repeatedly sexually abusing his 14 year old daughter when asked why he did it: “It is not as if she is 7 years old, she is 14, …her future husband would be thankful as I have already taught her what to do…” What distorted sense of entitlement is this?
Contrary to common assumption, sexual abuse does not only happen in identified danger areas far away from home. Statistics as provided by the US Department of Justice would show that the biggest percentage of rape and sexual assault/abuse occurred inside the victim’s home. Next comes the home of a relative, friend, or neighbor. The documentary film “The Hunting Ground” reveals the gravity of sexual assault incidents in US college campuses, revealing the so-called rape culture in the halls of education, the very place where students are supposed to be safe. Clearly, there is no such thing as a safe place wherever in the world, when a perpetrator is around.
The Victims’ Struggle
Victims have to go through a struggle not to hate themselves for what happened. Many are in denial, refusing to admit that they have been sexually assaulted. Without proper help, they can go into deep depression or just shut off from their system that horrific chapter in their lives… if they can.
They can hurt themselves or hurt others as shown by offenders who were themselves victims at a young age. No one would like to be exposed to public scrutiny as a victim of sexual assault thus most victims would understandably request for privacy and anonymity. This is the reason why most legal cases fail to progress. In addressing the brokenness of a victim, restitution is an important aspect.
The struggle that a victim goes through cannot be fully understood until one is such in a situation. There is no place for judgement here when it comes to the victim as you would not really know til it happens to you. Heed the call to intervene when consent is not or cannot be given.