Why We Need to Stop Talking to Women About Rape and Sexual Abuse and Start Talking to Men


Sexual abuse and rape is a very sensitive topic for a lot of people whether they show it or not and for so many women, it is a reminder of a traumatic experience we wish we could erase out of our minds. For generations, measures and warnings have been put in place, or used to “prevent” women from getting raped but no one seems to be having any conversations with men. So many women have been raped or sexually abused but no one knows a rapist or paedophile.

There has been a sudden rise in reports of rape and sexual abuse which is nothing new, the fact is, rape and sexual assault is an epidemic so many people are unaware of. From women in poverty-stricken areas to women in powerful political positions, almost every woman has a story to tell on this topic and the perpetrator is almost always a man. So why are we still talking to girls about rape?

“don’t wear this, they’ll think you’re asking for it”

“don’t go there they’ll think you’re asking for it”

“don’t walk at alone at night”

“take self-defense classes”

“always carry a small pocketknife and pepper spray”

Young girls and women have heard at least one or more of this growing up. So much money, time and effort wasted on telling the vulnerable how to prevent something instead of talking to the perpetrators.

Victims of rape are shamed by society and blamed for their misfortune because society is so misogynistic and patriarchal, the blame is automatically shifted to the woman. When a woman reports about sexual abuse the first question usually is, “What were you wearing?”

Your outfit does not give consent to sexual intercourse or any sexual or non-sexual encounter, only your mouth. Consent should not be forced or coerced out of anybody, neither should they be manipulated into giving it.

Statistics say that in the UK alone, 97% of women have reported sexual assault in public places. In America, a person is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds, 1 in 6 American women have experienced rape or sexual assault. Over 40% of Black girls are sexually victimized before their 18th birthday. Currently, South Africa and Botswana have the highest rate of rape cases – this is appalling and in no way, shape, or form something a country should be proud of.

The aftermath of any rape or sexual abuse experience is terrifying. The panic and anxiety attacks, the depression and suicidal attempts and thoughts, the isolation etc is enough to drive the victim crazy.

I was sexually assaulted when I was 13 and I remember it so vividly – I remember going home in tears, getting into the shower trying to scrub everywhere I was touched so hard I almost bled. I remember waking up in my own sweat from nightmares and feeling so angry, so dirty, so ashamed and like I was never good enough. This really affected my self-confidence and body image, it also made me really conscious of men.

Sexual education was not even thought to me until I was about 13 in secondary school, and the topic surrounded “menstruation and hygiene”, “saying no to sex and keeping yourself pure for marriage”. I was never taught about consent, recognizing sexual and emotional abuse, no education on how to react to uncomfortable scenarios with men or women. So, I grew up thinking that it was normal for men to catcall me on the streets, for me to be in a public place and anyone could touch me anywhere without my consent and no one would bat an eyelid, men making sexual advances towards me etc.

There was no safe space to really talk because I learnt soon enough that whenever a woman was sexually harassed or molested, the blame was put on her when she summons the courage to speak on it. Keeping my abuse to myself was the way I moved on. When it became too much, I told my friends who had no idea how to help me, in fact some of them were experiencing the same things I was experiencing.

A lot of women who have been sexually assaulted still carry scars and experience PTSD or even attempt suicide. Some can turn to addictive substances and alcohol to “forget” about it, have difficulty trusting men or working in an environment that is male dominated and so many other concerning issues.

I learnt about consent pretty late, but it is something I strongly talk about. I ask and demand for consent not to feel important or withhold something – because to be honest, I do not owe anybody anything - but out of respect for my rights.

Women should not have to live in fear because of the unpredicting actions of certain men. We should be able to go out for a run, work in an office, go to the gym, go to parties wearing what we feel comfortable in and do all sorts without carrying fear in our hearts and knives in our hands. Men need to do better, speak to your friends and all the men in your life. We do not have to use your mothers and sisters to direct your moral compass with “how would you feel if it was your sister/mother/girlfriend?”

Women are carrying a lot of baggage because some men could not keep their hands to themselves or their pants on their waist. All my traumas and a lot of other women who have experienced rape or sexual assault could have been prevented if the men who perpetrated the assault were educated and talked to.

Dear men, when women tell you about their sexual abuse experience, do not make it seem like they are laying an emotional baggage on you because it is exhausting and scary carrying that burden, so they trust you enough when they come to you. Do not trivialize sexual assault and say things like “worse things happen” – just shut up and listen. Do not try to take a defensive stance out of feeling that you are being personally attacked, we know it is not all men, but it is almost all women out there experiencing sexual assault from men. Do not victimize – “men experience sexual assault too”. No one needs a rebuttal, yes men experience assault too but now that is not the main concern, but the victim telling her story.

The issue with sexual assault and rape does not lie with women. So, if you are a man who considers himself a feminist or a supporter of women’s rights, use your power, influence, platform, and voice to speak up against rape and sexual assault and give help to victims. This is how men can join in fighting back and amplifying the voices of women.


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