A lot of people think that sexual assault is a survivor’s fault if they didn’t “just fight back.” That’s bull. Here’s why:
It’s never the survivor’s fault.
Sexual assault happens when the perpetrator chooses to violate another person. That’s it. Not clothing. Not drinking. Not choosing to be alone with the perpetrator. Not making out with them. Nothing. Nada.
Fighting back can make a bad situation even worse.
It can escalate the situation by provoking the perpetrator to cause even more bodily harm. Not everyone knows self defense. Sometimes self defense isn’t enough. Sometimes the perpetrator has a weapon (but not always). Sometimes the perpetrator is very strong and large. Sexual assault is bad enough on its own, so it makes sense not to want to worsen the situation.
Fighting back might not make it stop.
Some perpetrators don’t care if a survivor says “no” or “stop.” So why would fighting back stop them either? That could just make them try harder and, as previously stated, make them hurt the survivor even more. It’s also not a guarantee that the survivor will escape.
You know the phrase “frozen in fear.” That’s a literal thing. Sometimes a person is so scared that they literally could not move or scream even if they wanted to. It’s normal. It sucks. It doesn’t mean a person is weak. It means their body is using a very unhelpful coping mechanism.
Fighting back isn’t always necessary.
Sexual assault isn’t always violent. More often than not, it’s perpetrated by a person the survivor knows. When I was sexually assaulted, retaliating with violence would make no sense, especially since I was romantically involved with half of the people who have sexual assaulted me. Once I shoved the person away. A few times I’ve pulled their hand away from where it didn’t belong. One time I flinched. I used my words a few times. Sometimes, any of those things are enough to make it stop. Talk about lucky.
So stop saying survivors need to “just fight back.” The perpetrator shouldn’t be sexually assaulting them in the first place. Also, fighting back is harder and more complicated than it sounds. You’re not helping by saying that.
Thank you for reading this article. You can find my backstory here.