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Sexual assault is a sensitive topic in society. Although the occurrence of sexual assault is common, it can be difficult for individuals to speak about their trauma to others. This causes several victims to stay silent because they feel afraid or ashamed of their sexual assault incidents. The question being evaluated is whether sexual assault has a long term negative impact on individuals within society. Many believe that sexual assault only happens on late night strolls or in dark alleys, but in reality, assaults can happen during broad daylight; anytime and anywhere. Sexual assault refers to sexual acts or attempts that take place to achieve a sexual act by the occurrence of force. This can often times include sexual comments that are unwanted, being touched without permission, sexual threats, etc. Both men and women can be victims of sexual assault. According to the Government of Ontario, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men, are affected by sexual assault (Government of Ontario, 2016). When an individual suffers from sexual assault, they often face negative impacts and mental health problems. However, there are multiple helplines and resources to provide assistance to victims.
Consent is an essential factor that one has to consider before involvement in any sexual activity. If consent is not given, it is considered sexual assault. In order to make sure consent is provided from another person, rather than assuming or implying someone has given it, one should make sure consent is given in a verbal context. According to the Government of Ontario, even if one does not get outright denied, a lack of communication cannot be taken as consent. Consent cannot be given when someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as being under the influence can cause one to make irrational decisions. Consent being given once does not mean that it is never required again, since consent should be given every single time before any form of sexual activity (Government of Ontario, 2016). The type of clothing one wears cannot be an indicator for anything, as one’s preference in clothing has no correlation with giving consent. According to Bryana H. French and Helen A. Neville, young women are constantly being targeted for sexual coercion and at times exploitation. Due to this, these young women in society are pressured, threatened, and forced into unwanted sexual activity without their consent (French, Neville, 2017). This shows that women in society are undermined, considered vulnerable, and easy to take advantage of. Females are sexualized throughout media, even at a young age. For example, posing women in sexual ways in commercials, YouTube videos, magazines, etc. shows society’s culture, in which these women are portrayed as sexual objects. This shows a connection between both the sexualization of women in society and the unwanted sexual activities that occurs. Treating women as objects gives society the message that it is okay for them to treat women in a poor manner. It is important to be aware of what the media is trying to portray towards society and not mistake that information into mistreating women as objects or harass them in any form.
Mental health has a significant part in an individual’s day to day life. However, one’s mental health can be impacted, which can affect the way they function. Sexual assault incidents can be very traumatizing and cause numerous mental health issues. Although sexual assault can affect men and women differently, most of the time it causes severe anxiety and depression. According to Lisa M. Dario, sexual assault is one of the most traumatizing events that could possibly take place. It leaves an individual with negative results such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, severe anxiety, constant fear, alcohol or drug abuse, and possible suicide attempts or thoughts (Dario, 2018). Living with a constant fear of being assaulted again can be very devastating. Some victims cannot share their traumatizing experience because they fear being looked down upon by society. These consequences of depression, anxiety, and PTSD can start to show in one’s life. These mental health issues can cause someone not to attend their job anymore, which affects their well being and society as a whole. According to Peter Hagene, PTSD is the most common disorder that has been seen through sexual assault incidents (Hagene, 2015). These victims tend to relive the trauma over and over again, causing nightmares and sudden flashbacks. Chessy Prout is a sexual assault victim and she has also written a book called I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope. This book is based on her trauma and past experiences, which she decides to open up and share with society. During her interview, she begins to think how could someone disrespect her in such a way and how much pain it caused her along with her family. Without considering her humanity and the things he had taken away from her, such as her dignity (Entertainment Weekly, 2018). A group of guys on her campus were in competition with how many girls one can get, creating a list of names with several girls on it, which is considered to be very disrespectful towards these girls as they are treating them like sexual objects (Hauser, 2016). A lot of individuals in society tend to blame the survivors for not speaking up when being assaulted. However, this goes to show the lack of support society gives to these victims. A survivor is allowed to freeze in a traumatizing situation and it is not their fault for being in that situation, it is the individual committing the assault at fault. This comes to show the connection between society’s lack of support and mental health issues because the constant fear of being embarrassed and not being able to speak up due to what society has to say, can be harsh on one’s mental health (Entertainment Weekly, 2018).
Society can at times be impacted by misconceptions most commonly known as rape myths. In order to prevent sexual assault from occurring, one must acknowledge facts rather than myths. According to the Ontario Government, a common myth is that sexual assault is committed by strangers. However, the truth is that often times sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows, usually a family member, partner, or casual friend (Government of Ontario, 2016). Another myth is that if a woman does not fight back, it is not considered a sexual assault. However, the truth is that women are often times in shock and freeze during the incident. She can also struggle to fight back due to the fear the individual has caused, or at times be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. By understanding and telling individuals around you the facts of sexual assault rather than believing the myths, it can minimize the probability of such incidents occurring. Survivors that need help, can approach sexual assault centres that provide free information and counselling. There are several sexual assault centres located all around Ontario, including in Hamilton. One can find the information on the Ontario Government website, with locations and numbers. There are also several helplines and resources available for both men and women. Even if one is not a victim of sexual assault but instead a bystander, there are still ways for them to help (Government of Ontario, 2016). In order to intervene, one can become a witness to sexual assault and provide the necessary support, call the police when needed, stay with friends or family if they are in a vulnerable state and make sure they are safe. Another way to help is to become an ally. In order to do so, one must not blame the victim for being responsible for the incident, educate the people around society, children, and other family members about the topic at hand and about consent. There are also models of help that can provide the assistance needed. For instance, the medical model can be shown through a health care provider or a counsellor providing the help necessary to an individual going through trauma. They can help by being there for someone going through trauma and be available to talk to. The person responsible for causing the situation would be the individual committing the assault, causing the victim to face mental health problems and the person responsible for the treatment and solution would be a healthcare provider (VanCamp, 2019). Small things like this can be very impactful on a survivor’s life and also prevent this from happening to someone else.
In conclusion, sexual assault can be a very traumatizing event in one’s life. It is hard to let go of an experience such as this for many individuals, which can also have a huge impact on their way of living, functioning in society, and living up to other people’s standards. There are several helplines and counselling centres that provide the necessary help to cope with the trauma. Although there is a high proportion of women being sexually assaulted along with a few men, there are ways to prevent this from occurring in the future (Government of Ontario, 2016). By educating friends, family, children, and elders, it allows them to be aware of their surroundings and realize that it can happen to anyone and anywhere. Sexual acts that occur without consent often times lead to several mental health issues and the medical model requires these victims to seek the assistance they need (VanCamp, 2019). Therefore, if an individual sees another person dealing with trauma, they should act upon as they see fit.
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