Today marks the beginning of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week and with it, it brings up a conversation that we need to have. Last weekend I wrote about Anti-Rape clothing, the underwear that had been invented that couldn't be removed by anyone but the owner. Whilst I celebrated the fact that this may well help to reduce the number of attacks, I couldn't believe that this was just another thing that was becoming a woman's responsibility when it came to protecting themselves from sexual abuse. Why was this another thing that we had to do, just to be safe? The assumption is that rape is a rare occurrence, that it is an awful thing that happens to a select unhappy few. The assumption is wrong.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 3 women will be raped in their life time. 1 in 3. And that does not include rape as a weapon of war. In the UK Rape Crisis says that one 1 in 5 women have experienced rape or sexual assault. In the US RAINN asserts that 1 in 6 women have been raped. According to the UK Office of National Statistics it is estimated that there are 85,000 rapes of women in England and Wales every year. That's a woman being raped ever 6 minutes. In the US RAINN estimates that that's a woman every 2 minutes. Not a rare occurrence at all as it turns out. Of those women, 54% of them were younger than 18 when they first experienced rape or attempted rape. 1/4 of women experience domestic abuse and two women a week in the UK are killed by their partners in domestic abuse attacks.
And if those statistics weren't shocking enough, there is the utterly terrifying fact that 29% of rape victims will tell no one, not even friends or family and that only 15% will actually report it and become part of the statistics. So those statistics saying that 1 in 5 women have experienced rape or sexual assault? That's 1 in 5 that we know about.
But the real reason that we need to have this conversation? Why we must have it every day until something changes? Because when The Fawcett Society Sounds Familiar report asked: "If a woman goes out late at night wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault, is she totally or partly to blame?" 38% of all men and 34% of all women said yes. That if a woman was RAPED, she would be to blame. 41% of men and 30% of women aged 18-24 agree. I'm in that category and the fact that that many of my peers believe that to be true? It makes me feel sick. Even worse: 14% of men aged 18-34 say that if a woman were to be sexually assaulted after getting drunk in a short skirt, she would be TOTALLY to blame.
THAT is why we need to have this conversation.
BECAUSE IT IS NEVER EVER EVER A WOMAN'S FAULT. Rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence is NEVER okay. A woman is never asking for it, she shouldn't need to protect herself, to be 'careful' and 'wary'. A woman should be able to walk down the street in whatever she wants and know for a fact that she is totally safe, that she won't be attacked. But she can't, and going on those statistics I suspect it will be a very very long time before before she'll be able to. Before I will be able to, for my sister to or my daughter one day.
This is the week to start this conversation, I am begging you to have it. Let victims know that you are not part of the percentage that thinks that they are to blame, let them know that they are not on their own and that you support them. Let it be shouted, until it is heard that #ITSNOTOK.