In this day and age sexual assault has become such a subjective crime. Different people can analyze the same situation in completely opposing ways. Personally, I feel the victim (or survivor as some prefer) is a victim if they feel violated. Further, just because one person in the situation is a victim does not necessarily make the other person a criminal or rapist. Obviously there are terrible people who commit these heinous offenses on purpose with intent to harm; however this article is not directed at those cases.
Two separate instances occurred during varying stages of my life to demonstrate this notion in my mind. When I was younger, I had urethritis and vesicouretal reflux which was common for kids my age. I had to have a particularly nasty procedure every six months. The procedure involved sticking a tube into my bladder which is uncomfortably close to a few other things. Having had the procedure several times before, I recall this time specifically because it caused me so much anxiety about visiting doctors throughout the rest of my childhood. My usual doctor wasn’t in that day so an older man took her place. While he was only doing his job and my mother was in the room the entire time, the idea that a stranger was poking around in my private area left me with an unusual feeling of embarrassment and guilt. I felt so violated without really understanding why at that age. I felt like a victim, but the perpetrator definitely wasn’t some predator who meant to cause that harm to me.
On the flip side, this past New Year’s Eve, I had an experience some people might consider sexual assault. I found myself at a party that had run out of my favorite drink. Knowing the guy who threw the party had a stash somewhere I flirtatiously asked him if he had any more. He led me up to his room and the rest is history. I calmly said no a few times, but it happened anyway. The difference between the doctor’s appointment and the party was the feeling I had afterward. Was I asking for it by batting my eyelashes and asking for another drink? I surely hope not. Though I don’t tell people about my questionable encounter on New Year’s Eve it isn’t something I feel ashamed about or violated by. It also doesn’t make me dislike him as a person. I still hang out with him from time to time. While I wouldn’t have chosen to hook up with that boy, I know that if I wanted to stop him I physically could have. To me, it was simply something that happened as a result of too much alcohol and too little communication at the time.
Some people in my situation would view things differently and feel abused by the drunken encounter or see my instance with the doctor as childish or a call for attention. And that’s fine. I think we need to step back and accept that people can’t help how they feel, so we have to see things on an individual level. Not everyone feels victimized by certain circumstances and not every offender is a terrible person or even relevant to how we feel about the situation.