If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please seek help with a qualified counsellor or by calling 1800 RESPECT.
While this in itself has left me with a whole host of issues to overcome, it was not the actual event that caused me to reflect the most. Rather, it has been the reaction of those around me to it – in particular, the response of the men in my life.
In every instance the news has been met with a pervading sense of guilt that in some way my attack was preventable, that in some way they could have stopped it.
If only I hadn’t left you alone at the bar. If only I hadn’t let you take that drink. If only I had been there to protect you.
It’s a seemingly innocuous mentality that masquerades as a desire to shelter the ones you love from harm. Certainly, I don’t mean to say that those close to me were wrong in their emotions or that it was in any way disingenuous. But when you really start to break down what it means and why that’s the response a sexual assault receives, that’s when it starts to get troubling.
It all comes down to that drink and what people think it signifies. At the time, I didn't feel as though my interaction with this over-confident frat brother held me to anything greater than the rum and coke it was. I was grateful for the birthday drink and as I sat and chatted, slowly fading into unconsciousness, I remember thinking what a nice gesture it had been.
Exposed under my hospital gown as I awaited examination the next day, my seeming naivety started to become clear. The nurses, while kind and well-meaning, still asked with a grimace ‘Well, did you accept a drink from a stranger?”
It was something I hadn’t given a passing thought at the time but now seemed to beg the question: by committing a monetary value to our interaction, do I owe a man my time and eventually, my sexual congress?
Mia Freedman, Monique Bowley and Jessie Stephens discuss the practice of 'casual sexual assault' on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.
Logic would dictate no but the reality in Australian culture is far murkier. There still remains an ardent belief that someone buying you a drink is after something more, and that by accepting it you are agreeing to the terms.
The exact nature of these terms is variable but the subtext remains the same - your time has been purchased and now you must follow through. A failure to do so is a social faux-pas punished with the brand of ‘tease’ or something far worse. It is, in its most basic sense, an extension of prostitution that has become rooted in our collective psyche and one of the many faces of rape culture.