Written By Ugeshwary Sevaperumal – FIS120
Sexual assault/harassment. An intentional act of touching someone in a sexual way without their consent or forcing a person into a sexual act against their will. Rape, groping, child abuse, sexting and verbal torture in a sexual manner fall under sexual assault category. Sexual harassment or sexual assault is an alarming issue that is not addressed enough to the younger generations. What do I mean by not addressed enough? Even though there has been a rise in awareness campaigns on rape and sexual assault, there is still a rise in the number of rape cases locally and globally. Sexual assault is expanding to the point that 17% of Malaysian men face sexual harassment or assault in various ways. However, the main targets are still women and vulnerable children. Do you guys know what is scarier? According to studies, only 53% of sexual assault victims have reported and voiced out about the injustice that has happened to them. Why? What about the rest?
Most victims opt to not report due to embarrassment. Women mostly face gender or sexual discrimination almost everywhere there go. Many of them are still being judged by their appearance and the clothes they wear. This have made most of us be so conscious of what the society thinks about us. Most victims will need a society that supports them but they hate the sympathy that they get which makes them feel even fragile.
The second reason is the feeling that no one would do anything about the problem. This is due to the rape myths acceptance within the Malaysian society for an example, victim’s choice of clothing, emotional reactions of victims, presence of physical injuries, rape happens between strangers, women lie about rape, and men cannot be raped. Many rapists and assaulters are walking free due to these myths. In the end, the woman who reported the assault is put in a petrifying situation of facing harsh criticism of the society and even worse, a possible re-encounter with the perpetrator. In August 2016, a 22-year-old man who was charged for raping a 14-year-old girl avoided his sentences by marrying the girl by the Islamic law. This shows that things only got worse after the crime was reported. Many cases that ended in favour for the perpetrator have probably intensified the fear in women about reporting on sexual assault.
Fear of repercussion is another major reason why most victims do not speak out. Many sexual assaults are committed by someone related to the victims like cousins, parents, spouse or boyfriend. Some victims are being threatened by their assaulters in many terrifying ways. This makes them traumatised and plants the seed of fear inside their minds.
There is no doubt that sexual assault or harassment affects a person for their whole life both physically and mentally. This is the exact reason why we, the society, have to take more initiative to observe the attitude change of our close ones as they can be hiding their fears with an “ I’m okay” smile. As easy as that sounds, voicing out as a sexual assault victim is not an easy thing to do. As a friend, sibling or colleague we have to pay attention to our loved ones and protect each other.
We as a society should also give importance to sexual education and should always emphasize on the topic CONSENT. Along with teaching kids how to dress ‘appropriately’, we should also educate kids to not touch anyone without their consent. Parents and teachers should openly talk about good touch and bad touch to kids and also tell them what to do when someone touches them in a wrong way.
Nowadays, there are many actions being taken to prevent sexual assault but rape culture is not something that can be abolished just like that. We have to start breaking the silence and voice out our opinions. To everyone who is reading this, if you ever experience or witness a sexual assault or harassment, don’t be afraid of reporting it to a trusted adult or the police. Remember, you are not alone; there are many people who care about your wellbeing and are willing to help you.
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF SAYING NO.
DO NOT BE SCARED OF GETTING YOUR OWN FREEDOM.