Trigger Warning: This article does discuss and briefly describes sexual assault.
When I was sexually assaulted I wasn’t wearing a shirt skirt, a tank top, or anything tight. I wasn’t at some wild party getting drunk or high. I was at work simply wearing my uniform: black slacks, a white button up with a tie, and a vest. I had a ponytail and a face with no trace of make up but rather exhaustion from celebrating my birthday the previous day. I was just at work casually speaking to a “friend”.
When people talk about sexual assault and/or rape they always talk about “what was she wearing?”, “where was she?”, or “was she drunk?”. There is constant focus on what a girl did to get herself into that situation. There is a constant push that how a women acts or what she wears will have an impact on the way men act. From the start first grade up until high school graduation girls are constantly being told what is appropriate for them to wear. Doing so just enforces that dressing and acting a certain way is what gains a women respect rather than gaining respect from their accomplishments and the fact that they are human beings.
The way a women acts and dresses does not define the way she should be perceived by peers, specifically men.
There is a constant stigma of controlling women because what they do impacts a man’s future. We are told to cover up because no man will take us seriously. Schools are afraid that a shoulder or an ankle is going to ruin the chances of a guy graduating. None of that should be considered acceptable. A women should have the right to express herself in anyway she finds comfortable. More than often when something tragic happens to women they are questioned on what they were doing and what they did to provoke any occurrence.
In the widely covered Brock Turner case, people focused on the fact that there was drinking involved rather than he was never taught about consent and boundaries. Then there is the Canadian judge that questioned the victim on why she couldn’t keep her legs closed instead of focusing on a man that couldn’t ask for consent. Time after time we see this focus on “what could the women have done differently?” instead of focusing on men not asking for consent and getting set free because the victim was “too drunk” “too revealing” or “didn’t fight enough”.
We need to start creating a shift on the constant narrative of “what was she wearing”. If we keep telling women they need to cover up we just keep justifying men and their actions. Its time we all start driving away from the sexualization of women and head towards teaching men about respect towards women and consent.