Trigger warning: sexual harassment and rape
My sister messaged me yesterday. She’s currently away visiting some family for the holidays. She messaged me to ask “did mama [what we call mum’s brothers] touch you when you visited?” And I immediately knew what she was referring to. Yes, yes he did. He would rub my back, touching my bra strap and once “accidentally” groped my breast. I thanked my lucky stars that my sister felt comfortable enough to ask me. When this happened to me, I did not feel like anyone would believe me so kept it to myself. I encouraged her to tell my mum and she did. And now she’s safe.
I couldn’t help but cry. Cry in relief that she had someone she could come to. Cry in anger that I didn’t have anyone – not just in this case but for the duration of eleven years I endured sexual assault from someone else because I didn’t have anyone I could turn to.
- Approximately 4/5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim
- 82% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger
- 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance
I have been sexually harassed by many men – some strangers on the train or street. But the worst have been committed by men who are family. One even attempted to rape me.
But this topic is such a taboo. We don’t teach our children about consent. We don’t teach our daughters what sexual harassment consists of. We don’t let them know what to do if they are affected. We don’t let them know that they can come to us, that they can trust us to protect them, to believe them, to love them.
No. We’re much too busy telling our daughters what they can and can’t wear and teaching our sons they should man up and take what they want.
So I got my sisters together – the little one 15 and cousin sister who’s 16. I taught them the facts. I let them know that they can always come to me. I empowered them to not suffer in silence. I warned them to stay vigilant – sexual harassment can happen to anyone – and it is not your fault.
I hope this post inspires you to do the same*.
* I have had training on effective support to victims of sexual assault. However there are plenty of resources online so I recommend you read up prior to having this conversation.