Talk about it

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - By Vi­o­letta Zeitlinger Fon­tana

What do 35% of women around the world have in com­mon? They are all vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault. Per­son­ally, I think that’s about 1.3 bil­lion too many. Sex­ual as­sault af­fects mul­ti­tudes of women and it needs to change. Now.

When I was younger, I used to think that sex­ual as­sault was just rape. Some­thing that hap­pened when you walked home alone in the dark. Some­thing that was kept a se­cret. I and so many other girls and women thought the same thing be­cause that is what so­ci­ety led us to be­lieve. Our moth­ers don’t talk about it be­cause the last thing they want is for it to hap­pen to us. Our teach­ers don’t bring it up about it be­cause they say “we don’t need to worry about that”. Our bosses don’t see it as im­por­tant be­cause if we came for­ward, it would tear their com­pany apart. We don’t talk about sex­ual as­sault enough and as a re­sult, we have failed to ed­u­cate so many young men and women about the dan­gers of it. Just be­cause I walk alone at night or wear what you deem as “provoca­tive cloth­ing” doesn’t mean you have the right to omit my lack of con­sent. When I grow up, I don’t want my kids to think that sex­ual as­sault is just rape, be­cause it is so much more than that. It is any type of sex­ual con­tact or be­hav­iour that oc­curs with­out the ex­plicit con­sent of the re­cip­i­ent, and NONE of it is okay.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard about Har­vey We­in­stein and Larry Nas­sar, but those stories may not re­ally mat­ter be­cause they didn’t hap­pen to you, right? Wrong. Just be­cause it hasn’t hap­pened to you doesn’t mean you can push it to the back of your mind and for­get about it be­cause it has hap­pened to some­one. With all the re­cent sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions and all the vic­tims com­ing for­ward, we some­times get car­ried away, but do you re­mem­ber Brock Turner? I do. In Jan­uary 2015, Turner sex­u­ally as­saulted an UN­CON­CIOUS woman be­hind a dump­ster near a party be­fore two nearby bik­ers saw that the vic­tim was not mov­ing and pulled Brock off her. He served three months in jail. Three months for a crime that holds a sug­gested sen­tence of 2 to 14 years. In an emo­tional state­ment to her rapist, the vic­tim, who re­mains un­named, said “This is not a story of another drunk col­lege hook¬up with poor de­ci­sion mak­ing. As­sault is not an ac­ci­dent. Some­how, you still don’t get it.”

In the let­ter, Brock’s vic­tim also said, “I can’t sleep alone at night with­out hav­ing a light on, like a five-year-old, be­cause I have night­mares of be­ing touched where I can­not wake up, I did this thing where I waited un­til the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morn­ing.” I know that this res­onates very closely with many sur­vivors of sex­ual as­sault be­cause for them, its never re­ally over. Just be­cause they go home, and shower doesn’t mean its over. Just be­cause their rapist is con­victed doesn’t mean its over. Just be­cause they don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it’s over. Be­cause for them, it isn’t, and will never be over.

If it’s so im­por­tant, why don’t peo­ple just come for­ward, you ask? Well in fact, there are many reasons. Ac­cord­ing to Psy­chol­ogy To­day, sur­vivors of sex­ual as­sault usu­ally don’t come for­ward sooner be­cause of shame, de­nial, min­i­miza­tion, low self-es­teem, feel­ings of hope­less­ness, of help­less­ness, and many more. What if no one be­lieves them? These women, along with many oth­ers, don’t feel safe. We need to change this. Teach young women that wear­ing short skirts isn’t what lands you on the re­ceiv­ing end of an un­wanted sit­u­a­tion. Tell young men that “no” means “no”. Re­mind them that “I don’t know” means “I don’t know”. Make sure they re­al­ize that the only thing that means “yes”, is “YES”. We need to ed­u­cate our so­ci­ety be­cause not only should you and I be al­lowed to feel safe, but ev­ery sin­gle woman should be able to feel safe from sex­ual as­sault. We need to talk about it, be­cause if we don’t, not only will the prob­lem not be re­solved, but all these vic­tims will con­tinue to suf­fer. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives be­gin to end the day we be­come silent about things that mat­ter.”

Vi­o­letta Zeitlinger Fon­tana is a stu­dent in grade 11 at Bishop’s Col­lege School where she is an ac­tive mem­ber in sev­eral com­mit­tees and ad­vo­cacy groups. RE­SOURCES

Gov­ern­ment of Que­bec: Sex­ual As­sault: http://www.scf.gouv.qc.ca/en/vi­o­lences/sex­ual-as­sault

Cana­dian Women’s Foun­da­tion: The Facts About Sex­ual As­sault and Ha­rass­ment: https://www.cana­di­an­women.org/the-facts/sex­ual-as­sault-ha­rass­ment/

Que­bec Health In­sti­tute: Help­ing a vic­tim of sex­ual as­sault: https://www.in­spq.qc.ca/en/sex­ual-as­sault/re­sources/vic­tims

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