TRIGGER WARNING: Rape and Sexual Assault
The first assault took place in my second year of university and I considered the guy a friend. He was sober, I was not. I said no several times and he ignored me. The second assault took place earlier this year by someone who abused his position of power – I lied about not being on birth control in the hope that would stop him, but he went ahead anyway and went against my refusal due to lack of protection. The third assault took place this summer, I was dating the guy. After drinking too much, and him having to hold my hair back whilst I vomited, he decided to have sex with me whilst I was unconscious.
I don’t like to say that I’m experienced in being assaulted, but let’s put it this way, a guy I was once seeing asked me how I could be assaulted that many times by that many people. If the wide breadth of experience has taught me anything it is that it doesn’t matter the relationship you share with someone, if they want sex, they’ll get sex, whether it is consensual or not. It’s hard knowing that anyone would want to do that to someone, let alone someone you trust and have feelings for.
And while I’m very aware of how broken the system may be, whether we’re discussing the support for rape victims or the failing to get legal justice for survivors, it was only recent global events that taught my white skin has made my experience easier. As a society, we don’t like to discuss privilege within tragedy, maybe because we don’t like to tell one victim that their experience is better than someone else’s. It’s the belief that we’re invalidating their experience by saying that someone else has had it tougher, but that’s reality.
The colour of my skin never stopped people from believing me when I discussed being assaulted. Misogynoir, an extreme form of sexism rooted in racism, has led to black women becoming the ‘forgotten’ survivors of sexual assault. When faced with such statistics, white people are very quick to shift the blame to culture- we say it is down to the hush-hush nature of black communities.
The world has seemed to forget that the ‘Me Too’ movement was created and mobilised by the black community, with Tarana Burke responsible for its beginning back in 2006, endlessly campaigning for victims of rape and sexual assault. As Burke stated, ‘Black women have been screaming about famous predators like R&B singer R. Kelly, who allegedly preys on black girls, for well over a decade to no avail’, so why did we only start to collectively listen when some white women started calling out Harvey Weinstien? So if we are to look into improving education surrounding sexual assault and improving survivors’ recovery, there needs to be specific research and support for the BAME community.
By Rebekah Cheung