KALMers, sexual assault can occur anywhere and anytime. In Indonesia, cases of rape and sexual assaults itself not uncommon. Every year there are many cases of sexual violence or harassment that are reported. Not to mention those who are not exposed to the media. Unfortunately, instead of becoming an issue of concern, many try to normalize and underestimate the seriousness of the issue.
This is happening due to the fact that not many have enough awareness of this issue. Most cases of sexual assault, just like in the past, are seen to be the fault of the victims, their own behavior or appearance. Isn’t it ironic? But are such assumptions correct? Let’s check the facts together!
Myth #1: “Someone is being harassed because of their appearance.”
Fact: The fact is sexual crimes are committed because of the perpetrator’s sense of power and situational opportunity. Studies have even shown that rapists choose victims based on their vulnerability, not on how sexy they look or how flirty they are. A sexual crime is more likely to happen when the perpetrator believes he/she has more power and control over the victim.
Myth #2: “There is no such thing as rape in marriage life.”
Fact: Sexual assault can occur in any type of relationship, including marriage, dating as well as it can be done by friends, relatives, or coworkers. Just because you’re married and have had sex before with your partner, it doesn’t mean they have permanent rights over your body. Rape occurs when your partner ‘forces’ sex on you without your consent.
Myth #3: “If the victim doesn’t fight back, it’s not a sexual assault.”
Fact: According to Jessica Klein, a clinical social worker at the University of Southern California, during a sexual assault, some part of our brain that responds to fear is in a hyperreactive mode. During trauma, the limbic system (the part of the brain that processes emotions and is responsible for resistance mechanisms) takes over the logical parts of our brain. As a result, the resulting response is to freeze instead of fighting back. The offenders, on the other hand, take advantage of this response. So it’s not that the victims didn’t try to fight, it’s just that they can’t!
Myth #4: “The majority of sexual assault are perpetrated by strangers.”
Fact:Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows such as a neighbor, friend, coworker, classmate, lover, partner, or ex-partner. According to studies, around 80% of women who report sexual crimes know the perpetrators.
Myth #5: “Only young women are vulnerable to sexual harassment.”
Fact: The idea that only young women are sexually assaulted stems from the myth that sexual assault is based on lust of the perpretator and the appearance of the victim (such as in the myth #1). But, it’s not! Sexual crimes often are motivated by the perpetrator’s sense of power and control. Perpetrators tend to choose victims whom they perceive as vulnerable to attack or whom they believe they can control.
Victims of sexual assault can come from various groups, from young to old, male or female, even people with disabilities can also experience sexual assault. The assumption that victims of sexual assault ‘must be a young woman’ can only solate the victims. Those who are not part of this category feel they will not be trusted because they do not fit the stereotypical characteristics of victims of sexual assault.
Myth #6: “Sexual harassment happens as a result of a miscommunication or mistake.”
Fact: No! Sexual assault is a crime, not an unintentional accident, mistake, or misunderstanding. It didn’t happen due to a misunderstanding between the two people. Sexual violence is defined as any unwelcome sexual contact obtained without the victim’s consent using assault, threats, intimidation, or coercion.
Myth #7: “If sexual harassment or violence really happened, the victim should have reacted by yelling.”
Fact: Victims of sexual assault show a different spectrum of responses to sexual assault such as: calmness, hysteria, withdrawal, anger, denial, and/or shock. Being sexually harassed is a very traumatic experience. The way people react to that and how long it takes them to process it can differ from person to person. When it comes to sexual assault, there is no right or wrong way to respond. Assumptions about how a victim “should respond” will only harm the victim because each victim deals with trauma in a different way and varies from time to time.
So, what do you think, KALMers? Don’t forget to share this article if you find it useful!
Remember that you are not alone if you or people around you are experiencing this. When you’re ready to tell your story, you can contact Kalmselor via the KALM App (download here). KALM is here because we need to share #KitaPerluCerita.
Written by: Rachma Fitria
Translated by: Rachma Fitria
Edited by: Lukas Limanjaya
Georgetown Law University. (n.d). Myths and facts about sexual assault. Georgetown Law University: https://www.law.georgetown.edu/your-life-career/health-fitness