Why Every Assault Matters

I’ve previously written about this before, about my own incident, on my blog. How I downplayed it for so long and carried it like a huge burden. It took until the Stanford rape case, and to see how many people this affected, for me to realise that I could no longer shrug my shoulders and act like what happened to me wasn’t important. The incident might not have stopped me from dating and having fun, but it’s still affected me greatly.

In many ways, my situation was considerably tamer. Tamer than Stanford, and tamer than so many of the stories I’d heard before, which is one of the reasons why I’ve downplayed my own situation. That, and it felt easier to downplay it because I could act like I wasn’t in pain.

I could hear the hypothetical defence rip my personality to shreds. I could see the hyper focus that I was in a relationship with him. The hyper focus on the fact that I wasn’t seriously injured, and that I’d ‘cheated on him anyway’. I could see my past and my personality and how I behaved afterward getting dragged out and used as a justification.

“Were you under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time?” “What were you wearing?” “How many men have you been physically intimate with?” “Did you use protection? Do you normally use protection?” “You’ve known the defendant since secondary school. Were you close?” “Why did you still talk to him after the incident?”

My situation certainly brought me some character killing from the police. Yes, I hadn’t been seriously injured. Yes, I’d eventually be more aware and could avoid the situation in the future. But I’d still been entered without permission. I’d still spent the night crying while sitting in the bath tub, wondering what I’d done to deserve this.

It was made out that because I didn’t fight back, I must have wanted it. That because he was my boyfriend, he must have thought I’d wanted to have sex. That I must have been as much to blame for it as he was. I was told that because I was in a relationship, it was a “grey area”, that it would be difficult to prosecute because it wasn’t a stranger and I wasn’t massively hurt. They made it seem like I’d be better off if it was on the street and my assailant had been seen by witnesses. That I’d be in a better position if I’d been drugged or dragged away from a party. Like I was at a disadvantage because all my clothes were still on and I was sticking up for myself. I was sent away with no results. He wasn’t charged, he wasn’t kept away from me. I was told to go about my day, go about my life. To shrug my shoulders over the incident and downplay it.

I dismissed my situation as life went on. I’d spend time with my friends and try to ignore the burden that was held over my head. Then the Stanford incident became a household discussion, and I spiralled into stress as I listened to celebrities comments about the case, and felt like their words were specifically directed at me. I was unfortunately reminded about why I hadn’t been taken seriously, why my perpetrator hadn’t been charged and why the Stanford victim has been treated so disgustingly. Because in 2016, there is still a running narrative of suggesting that girls are “asking for it” and that men are not able to help themselves. That women dressing provocatively is like “dangling meat in front of a lion”. They still find a way to assault the victim’s character and paint the situation as something that’s not a big deal. They’ve even gone to extra effort to portray the rapist as a victim, discussing how difficult the case has been for him, how we shouldn’t sentence him over something so ‘minor’.

And that’s where I feel the fevered need to drag up my story again. My “incident”. The words of the judge and the father, their sentiments of the case being ‘no big deal’ ricochet many of the things I heard about my own situation.

Rape is a big deal. Every last aspect of it. Everyone’s rape is a big deal, whether that be behind a dumpster or behind closed doors. Whether that be by a stranger or by the person you cared for the most. The last thing anyone should do is downplay a victim’s situation. The discussion has to keep going and we have to distance ourselves as far as possible from the ‘no big deal’ sentiments. The last thing any of us should do is dismiss a person’s cries and downplay a victim’s situation because that attitude should not still exist in 2016.

Beth is currently studying Journalism and Creative Writing at the University for the Creative Arts and was awarded the Sir Ray Tindle journalism scholarship at UCA and runs a successful lifestyle blog at www.bethanyashley.com. She also regularly contributes to many different media outlets as a freelance writer, mostly inspired by feminism and her mental health activism. She aspires to become a novelist and always continue her passion for writing. Follow Beth on Twitter here.

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