When men in high places lose their jobs due to courageous women coming forward to share their horrible experiences in public, it's easy to forget how serious the problem of sexual assault has become in today's society. Such charges or behaviours are often dismissed by many men (and even some women) as "boys will be boys."
Sexual Assault: What Is It?
The crime of sexual assault is one of the most serious and devasting types of violent crime. As time passes, the sufferer is left with a lasting traumatic scar that no amount of time can repair or erase. It's time to quit making excuses for these dishonourable (mostly male) criminals in our culture and society..
Sexual assault (and its twin, sexual abuse) is not about the abuser performing a sex act on the victim.
As a matter of fact, it's all about who has more power: the abuser or victim. In most cases, the perpetrators of these crimes are men who abuse women, and most victims are aware of their abuser. However, sexual assault is commonly defined as short-term or rare, but for the victim, these distinctions are irrelevant.
Sadly, we are seeing an increasing number of incidences of sexual assault in India.
Every fifth woman has been raped at some time in her life, according to a recent survey (and one in 71 men). That figure climbs to one in four women on college campuses (and one in seven men). Over 90% of the time, it is done by a romantic partner or a friend of the person. Women account for 91 percent of rape and sexual assault and rape victims, while men account for nine percent.
Sexual assault is on the rise.
Sex abuse can come in various forms but all of them have one thing in common: unwanted sexual activity is a part of it. The victim may be forced to watch the perpetrator engage in a sexual action on their own, or inappropriately reveal their genitals, as part of that activity. There is no shame in utilising threats, violence, or taking advantage of a victim's position to acquire what they want from sexual abusers (such as an employee).
Those who commit acts of sexual assault enjoy taking advantage of the victim's inability to defend themselves. Alcohol or drugs can be used as a means of intoxicating victims in order to ensure that they are compliant. The victim is more likely to blame themselves or themselves for taking the drugs or alcohol, which reduces the likelihood of the victim reporting the crime to the authorities (although the administration of drugs is often non-consensual).
It is common for powerful, prominent men who participate in sexual assault to assume that they are entitled to both verbally harass and sexually abuse anyone at any time. They feel that their position of power—whether it comes from riches, family background, professional role, politics, or corporate leadership—doesn't apply to regular cultural and societal norms. For these males, "I'm owed this, and you can't do anything about it—who would believe you over me?" is a recurring theme.
Why Do Some Men Abuse Women Sexually?
There are a plethora of rationales and justifications offered by those who commit these atrocities. Victims justify their acts by claiming that the other person was causing them to engage in molestation, according to Jaydip Sarkar of Singapore's Institute of Mental Health. There were five ideas used to justify their prior actions, which Sarkar refers to as "cognitive distortion," by the offenders.
They believe that women are inherently different from me and therefore cannot be comprehended. Because of this, encounters with women will be confrontational and women will be deceitful about what they actually want. An example of a Cognitive Distortion may be "...she is dressed in tight pants and her cleavage is apparent. It's clear that she wants sex, and she'll let it if I have it with her, even if she tells me "no." Sarkar (2013, p. 3)
When it comes to men's sexual desires, women are continually available, but they may not be aware of it all of the time. If a woman is physically harmed during sexual activity, it is impossible for her to be harmed by sexual activity, which means she cannot be hurt by it. I can think of an example of this: "...when she looks furtively at me when I make filthy jokes, she is truly interested in me.... As a result, when she replies "no," she's just playing a joke on me to get me even more excited. Sarkar (2013, p. 3)
When a man is excited, he can't help but proceed to orgasm, and he can't control it. This cognitive distortion may present itself in the statement: "... I would become weak if my "dhat" (semen) runs out" (premature ejaculation while molestation or sexual harassment of a woman) in India, where the syndrome of "male sexual weakness" or dhat syndrome is common. Sarkar (2013, p. 3)
Women have a responsibility to meet the sexual wants of men, and they should do so at the drop of a hat. Such Cognitive Distortions of male entitlement, especially if the victim is lower status for any reason (socioeconomic, caste, etc.) can lead to marital rape in a society like India with severe gender-based inequities (recommended to be considered a crime in the Verma Commission report). Sarkar (2013, p. 3)
A dangerous world: People need to be on guard, but there is no safe haven in this hostile and menacing environment. Some examples are: I have been wronged in many ways, and so it is not evil for me to do harm to others." Sarkar (2013, p. 3)
Trauma inflicted can last a lifetime, and it is never-ending.
Victims of criminal sexual assault often have to suffer with the effects of the trauma for the rest of their lives. As a result of the assault, 81% of women (and 35% of men) will experience PTSD, anxiety, or a major depressive disorder.
For those who have been sexually assaulted, suicidal thoughts and attempts appear to be significantly elevated; in comparison to other disorders, sexual assault was related with the highest risk for suicidality" (Dworkin et al., 2017). OCD and bipolar disorder have also been linked to sexual assault victims, according to a comprehensive review of the literature on sexual assault.
It is rare for perpetrators to think about, much less care about, how their actions affect their victims. It's virtually always in the context of feeling the victim is solely to fault for getting oneself into a scenario with the perpetrator, which is how most people interpret it.
Victims of sexual assault are typically helped by psychotherapy sessions.
Because so many sexual assault victims blame themselves (and society too often does), the healing process can take a long time. A victim's cognitive distortions are typical, yet no one would ever want this to happen to their best friend, much less themselves. When it comes to healing from sexual assault, time is an important factor, but in most cases, time alone isn't enough for most people.
Is there a reason why so many victims of sexual assault don't go to the police?
By going over the incident with law enforcement authorities multiple times, victims often feel like they have been victimised again. When it comes to dealing with sexual assault reports in a caring and sensitive manner, not all of these people have the required training.
When a victim is questioned by law enforcement, they are almost always asked questions such, "What were you wearing at the time of the assault?" and, "Have you had anything to drink?"
What Is Society's Role in Sexual Assault Perpetrator?
People should not ask victims of sexual assault, "What were you wearing?" as a way of re-victimizing them. Inquiringly, "Did you overindulge?" How did you handle it? Because of this crime, it is important to teach criminals that people's limits and rights must always be respected at all times. "Are you sure he was aware of this?"
Sexual action is not consent if the participant does not provide their permission.
Violent acts are not acceptable just because a person is in a position of authority over another person. "Oh, that's just locker-room banter," or "They were only 18, what do they know?" are common explanations for poor behaviour by offenders. Instead, society and family members should emphasise the importance of dignity, respect, and morality, rather than making excuses for bad behaviour by perpetrators. Women aren't here to be oppressed or exploited in any way.
Helping Others & Getting Help
It is imperative that you get help if you are a sexual assault perpetrator right away. For the people you've hurt, your dysfunctional behaviour is likely to have caused them lasting harm that they will never be able to recover from. Therapists that specialise in working with sexual assault perpetrators can be found across the country. Proactively contacting someone today is a sign of strength.
If someone tells you that they've been the victim of a sexual assault, please listen to them without making assumptions about their situation. Offer unreserved emotional support and be a good listener. Then, if necessary, offer to assist them in obtaining the resources they need to get back on their feet. If they don't want to talk about the assault, then don't bring it up. Be supportive, but don't nag or indicate there is only one "correct" way to respond to the assault.
If you've been a victim, don't forget that assistance is available. Remember that sexual assault is not your fault if you have been a victim. Even if your own family or certain people in your life don't believe you, professionals and friends will.
Please, don't wait any longer to seek assistance.
1. Dworkin, ER, Menon, SV, Bystrynski, J, Allen, NE. (2017). Sexual assault victimization and psychopathology: A review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 56, 65-81.
2. Davis, KC, Neilson, EC, Wegner, R, Danube, CL. (2018). The intersection of men’s sexual violence perpetration and sexual risk behavior: A literature review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 40, 83-90.
4. Malamuth, N. M., & Brown, L. M. (1994). Sexually aggressive men's perceptions of women's communications: Testing three explanations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(4), 699-712. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1999
5. Sarkar, J. (2013). Mental health assessment of rape offenders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(3), 235–243. http://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.117137