How to not blame yourself after a sexual assault

Most victims do not report incidents of sexual violence because they are blamed and humiliated by people they expect to protect them. They will be the talk of the town — shamed, blamed, and regarded as “damaged goods”.

But their greatest enemy is when they question themselves: “What should or shouldn’t I have done to stop what happened to me?”

Laws to not blame yourself: Your perpetrator is guilty
Many individuals choose not to report what happened to them because they are afraid that they will not be believed, and some are not even sure if what happened to them was sexual assault or harassment.

The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 classifies education or training-based sexual harassment as follows: When a person demands sexual favors of giving in return “a passing grade, honors, scholarships or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other, benefits, privileges, or considerations; or if it results in an “intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or apprentice.”

Furthermore, the Anti-Rape Law states that rape is committed when a person had sexual intercourse with another through “force, intimidation and threat; when the victim is unconscious or deprived of reason through fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and when the victim is under 12 years of age or is demented, even if none of the above conditions are present.”

Moreover, any person commits sexual assault through oral or anal sex; or if an object is inserted into the anal or genital opening of another person.

Statistics to not blame yourself: You’re not alone
Last year, the Social Weather Station (SWS) conducted a study on sexual harassment and found out that women are the most susceptible. In Quezon City, 3 out of 5 women are reported to have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime. 88% of the respondents, ages 18 to 24 years old, responded to have experienced catcalling and wolf whistling as the most experienced incidents.

This year, the CNN Philippines reported that one woman or child is raped every hour as cited by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) that reveals 7,037 reported rape cases from January to October. And remember that rape cases are underreported, the Criminal Justice System Statistics reported that out of 1,000 rapes, only 310 are reported to the police.

On one hand, there isn’t much statistics on sexual assault on men, but it doesn’t mean there is none. Socialization issues make it harder for men to report on their assaults: they are expected to act like a “real man”; or the culture of homophobia keeps them from telling their experience of male-to-male rape; and when society denies that men can get raped too.

Why to not blame yourself: You said ‘No’
Know that you are not at fault, regardless of what you were wearing, where you were, how much drinks you’ve had — if you said no and they still heard yes, it is sexual assault. Consent is freely given, without deception. An underaged, drunk, drugged, or asleep cannot give consent. Any person is entitled to withdraw at any stages of the sexual act. Moreover, agreeing to one type of sexual intimacy does not apply to the rest of it and consent is an active verbal process — to, again, freely say yes. It is not assumed.

The most common type of rape or sexual assault is from an ex-partner, a partner, or someone that you actually know. You went through that trauma not because you specifically did things in order that led to that assault. It is because that person led you into that assault. What could’ve stopped your assault? If that other person stopped it. You’re not responsible for the actions of that other person.

You deserve to get better and heal. You know that it is wrong to blame yourself, but you can’t help it. It’s so easy to go back and relive the horror of that memory, and it’s a lot harder to step forward into loving yourself more. But that one step is worthwhile.

Break the habit of self-blaming, whenever you delve into those thoughts, take note on what triggered them and correspondingly avoid them as much as you can. When you fail, be gentle to yourself– what’s going on in your head may be a flashback but not the reality. It is also important to surround yourself with good people that will help you heal: those who would always remind you compassionately that you are not to blame when you’re at the verge of triggers.

Lastly, be patient. Let time heal the wounds of the past. Reconnect your body with your feelings, and start living again. Nurture yourself even more, because you’re a survivor. You survived yesterday, you will survive today. –Andrei Jascha Isais/ AUF Intern