Protecting Our Women At All Costs!
There’s so much going on around me that has led me to writing this piece. Women are victimized daily, yet they decide to swallow the large pill of what has happened to them at the expense of their own mental stability. But why? Why are women keeping silent? That has been the question many people have been asking. Is it because they put themselves in that position? Is it because they deserved it or were too suggestive to say it wasn’t consensual? Is it because NO doesn’t always mean no? So many questions without real answers. Prayerfully, by the end of this read, you will have a different outlook and better understanding on the whys. Prayerfully, it will cause you to reevaluate your outlook and if provoked, change your perspective.
Jennifer (that’s what I’ll call her for the purpose of this piece) and I have been friends for over 20 years. We have had many ups and downs over the years. However over the last 5-7 years we have become closer than sisters. It is for this reason that when she shared this story with me, for the life of me I couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been sooner. Was it because we weren’t really the friends I thought we were? Was it because she didn’t feel comfortable sharing ugly situations with me? We’ve talked about everything from family, friends, and stupid ex’s. Why was this any different?
Jennifer had a close male friend (let’s call him John) whose house she would stay if everyone went out and she was too drunk to drive home. They had a completely platonic relationship, which made his place one of safety and comfort. Well one night, after being out, she decided to stay at John’s house because she didn’t want to drive home. While she wasn’t SMACKED, she had a drink or two more than that of someone who should be driving anywhere. John had planned to step out for the remainder of the night because he was meeting up with a “friend.” He also had another friend who was staying on the couch, I’m guessing for the same reason as Jennifer.
When John left, this friend came into the room and asked Jennifer if he could sleep in the bed with her. She was completely thrown off, sending him to the other room, because nothing in her recollection should have given him the impression that this intrusion was warranted. In the middle of the night Jennifer felt a tug at her pants and jumped out of her sleep. She realized it was the couch sleeper, clearly not on the couch. As she tells him to stop, he continues tugging. She tells him to stop again, as he is forcefully trying to remove her pants. She fights him off and yells for him to leave. She immediately reaches out to John, the friend whose house it was, telling him to come back immediately. When John returns, Jennifer begins to tell him what happened from beginning to end. His response was, “Well, you both were drunk.”
For those unaware or uninformed, according to Wikipedia (not my favorite source to use), sexual assault is defined as “an act in which a person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.” Jennifer was asleep and woke up in the midst of a sexual assault.
So the question is why don’t women SPEAK UP?! One of the main reasons women don’t speak up when sexually assaulted is fear that people won’t believe them or take the act seriously. The fear that people will ask, “Well what’s the whole story?” As if telling them that you said no, or weren’t able to consent because you were asleep or drunk, simply wasn’t enough. Fear of having to defend themselves by reliving the moment over and over, a moment they want to do nothing more than forget, in an effort to convince someone that it happened.
Why don’t women speak up? EMBARRASSMENT and GUILT. The thoughts and feelings of “How did I get here?” “I allowed this to happen.” “I put myself in this situation.” “Embarrassed that I could be so stupid to put myself in this position.” Too often, because men don’t take accountability for their own actions, it leaves victimized women in a space where they have no option but to place blame on themselves.
Have you ever heard conversations that sounded like, “Well she went over there with that skin-tight mini dress on. What did she expect to happen?” Because I know I have. Or comments like “It was 3am after they had been drinking. What did she think was going to happen when going into his house?” I myself have said that one. As I look back in disgust with my own previous thoughts, I yell to you all and myself, “None of that matters. All that matters is NO MEANS NO.” The events of the night are all irrelevant. She could have thrown herself over him all night, kissing, hugging, WHATEVER. All that matters is when she said no, she meant NO!
Why don’t women speak up? Could it be because we live in a society where it’s “Bro’s before ho’s.” So when men hear about their bro doing foul shit, they minimize it as “being drunk.” Jennifer shared with John that his friend sexually assaulted her. He responded, “You were both drunk,” as if drinking too much validates an attempt to take advantage of someone who was asleep. As if being drunk equates to NO DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN NO. The situation couldn’t have been that serious because that’s my bro and he’s not like that. Maybe she’s overthinking it. A woman with two degrees can’t possibly differentiate flirting from a sexual assault.
So what can we do?
PROTECT OUR WOMEN AT ALL COSTS! When you see foul behavior, SPEAK UP! Recently there was a video circulating on social media of a guy attempting to talk to a girl who wasn’t interested in him. It made me think back to when it would happen to me, followed by “Fuck you bitch,” or “You aren’t that cute anyway, ho.” Well this young lady in the video wasn’t as fortunate as me to just have abusive words thrown at her. Before she could respond, he smacked her across the face with a skateboard. A SKATEBOARD! So I ask, are we protecting our women? Who stood there and recorded the video and posted it? How many other women have been abused by this man, either physically or emotionally, before this incident and how many people sat around and said nothing? Who was protecting her?
So what can we do?
PROTECT OUR WOMEN AT ALL COSTS! Stop victim shaming and minimizing because of your views and ideology about the woman. You weren’t there! I recently listened to an interview on The Breakfast Club with Dr. Umar Johnson (link here) where he shares his views on the Bill Cosby case (20 mins in). He shared that because the woman was white and of power, there is no way that she could be a victim and wait a year to tell her story. He shared that because Bill is a black man and she is a white woman, it was not possible for her not to tell her white friends or whomever about what this “black man” had done to her. While it is true that black men are persecuted and sentenced unequally to their white counterpart, to take a situation such as this, sexual assault, and reduce the actions and effects of the trauma to “If it really happened, she would have spoken up because of her race” is disgraceful. Who was protecting her?
So what can we do?
PROTECT OUR WOMEN AT ALL COSTS! Mothers–love on your children. Show your daughters and sons what respect and love looks like. Teach them to not only take accountability for their actions, but when to let go of the guilt associated with situations where they were taken advantage of. Fathers–show your children what healthy relationships look like. Show your sons and daughters, through your actions, how to treat the ones they love and how they should be treated by the ones that love them. Parents–teach your children that NO MEANS NO. Instead of us simply teaching girls how to be careful and to avoid certain situations, teach your sons to respect women. Teach them what consent is and what it is not. Have continuous conversations with your children to inforce… and reinforce…right from wrong. Protect them at all costs!
TO THE VICTIMS:
Please know that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! There is no situation that you could have put yourself in that warrants someone taking advantage of you. If you did not give consent, it is not your fault. If you did give consent and changed your mind and said “No” or “Stop” and they didn’t listen, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Regardless of the time you went over there, if you said “No” or “Stop” and they didn’t listen, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Regardless of what you had on, if you said “No” or “Stop” and they didn’t listen, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
TO THE VICTIMS:
FORGIVE YOURSELF! Don’t hold on to the idea of ‘What could I have done differently?’ Let go of the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve’s” and FORGIVE YOURSELF. In every situation in life, literally every single one, good or bad, we could have done something different. But once you said no, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.
TO THE VICTIMS:
Although it may feel like you are alone in a room full of people, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Step out of your fears (trust me, I understand it’s easier said than done) and share your story. You will be surprised by not only how supportive your real friends will be, but also by the amount of people who share similar stories. Your story might be the one that someone needs to hear in order to heal from their own.
TO THE REST OF US:
PROTECT OUR WOMEN AT ALL COSTS! Remember, women don’t speak up because sometimes it feels like the pain of reliving those horrible moments isn’t worth it. But once someone finds the courage to speak up, listen. Don’t question them. Be a listening ear. It took Jennifer two years to share her story because the first person she shared her story with did not listen. DON’T BE THAT PERSON.
PROTECT OUR WOMEN AT ALL COSTS!