April brings awareness of sexual assault misconceptions

As a way of stimulating critical dialogue about a generally taboo topic, April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Most importantly, this month is a time to combat the commonly held assumption that female victims are raped or sexually assaulted because of the clothes they wear. This falsehood is perpetuated by a rape culture that causes people to believe that most people are assaulted by strangers, when, in fact, more than 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

There is a misconstrued image of sexual assault that looks something like a large, burly man jumping from the bushes to attack some unsuspecting girl on her way home from a late night at the library.

While this may be one form of sexual assault, by no means does it constitute the entire spectrum.

Cases like the incident in November 2010, when a man entered a bathroom in Forbes Hall and assaulted an unknown victim, are the exception to the norm. Yet these cases are hyped up enough that this is the only type of sexual assault that people pay any attention.

The misconception is that if a woman is dressed in a provocative way, then she is more vulnerable to sexual assault. This is not the case. Clothing has no effect on the likelihood of being sexually assaulted because the perpetrator is not attacking the victim out of a sexual desire but out of a desire to control and dominate.

We as a society seem to understand that no one asks or wants to be sexually assaulted, yet all too often, we still blame the victim.

Nothing is an invitation for anyone to do so. If consent is not given, then any sexual advancement, if forced, is considered assault. Even if the victim is naked, it is her personal right not to be touched, just as a person who leaves her house unlocked has the right not to be robbed.

Remedying this problem doesn’t start and end with preventive tactics like self-defense. Rather, it involves reinventing the rape culture perpetuated by the movies we watch and the songs we hear that teach us violence is a component of sexual relationships.

It’s true that it doesn’t take a strong person to slip something into another person’s drink. What it does take, and where sexual assault prevention should begin, is a strong person to understand that no means no and no response does not mean yes.