January 20, 2014

SAAM blog series: Start talking about ________

For Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), We’ll be highlighting specific myths about sexual assault each week, particularly about the relation university campuses as a way to start and continue the conversation about Sexual Assault. January is SAAM here at UBC, and alongside this blog series, there will also be variety of events to take part in or refer others to.

This week we’re talking about the facts of sexual assault, the big picture of sexual assault, speaking up, and consent through online resources and campus events using myths, delving in from our general myth and facts page. This time, we will be looking at the particular myth that rape and assault are also identifiably violent from the opposite and that a survivor will always ‘fight back’ or resist, when in reality sexual assault comes in many permutations with many varied survival strategies. This myth warps consent, can be spoken up against, twists the facts of sexual assault, and ties into the big picture of assault and rape culture. 

Let’s Start Talking about the myth that sexual assaults always involve a survivor directly fighting back. That experiences of harm only count as harm if legitimized by directly violent acts of resistance. This perception is tied into many other myths and misconceptions and sexual assault, particularly it serves to further the conception that the only kind of assault is that perpetrated by strangers in unfamiliar environments and the outdoors. In those situations this myth suggests defending yourself should clearly be the response. It erases the complexity of people’s responses to harm and fright, focusing on someone’s response to a threat rather than on the perpetrator of the harm. The myth then frames media cultural understandings of assaults at parties, between acquaintances, within communities, and in a variety of situations where ‘fighting back’ might be harder defense to reach for or, just as in the more popular assault vision, not viable for many reasons.

This myth purports to know that the best response and defense tactic is always a very particular one, and proceeds to shame and erase survivors as the expert of their own situations and the reality that for many folks this strategy might not be possible or viable. It plays into cultural attitudes that already frequently patronize, condescend and instruct survivors, women, and other folks who are systemically positioned as childlike or less intelligent such as youth. We can talk about this myth ties into the previous myth about owing sex. They are all connected.

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