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As a girl or woman, wondering if you are about to be assaulted or killed when approached by a boy or man are not exaggerations.

As young girls, women are taught to evade their “fates”. We are taught not to dress too scantily, to not walk alone at night, to not leave our drinks unattended, to not go to the restroom alone, to leave abusive relationships and more. The conversation is conducted by family members, teachers, books, and films, however, was does not seem to come up in these discussions, regardless of how many victim-blaming points are embedded into young girls’ minds, is for men to simply not assault.

Many believe this to be an unwritten rule, that of course men shouldn’t assault women, that all men don’t do it so there’s hardly reason for there to be a discussion for it. However, contrary to that asinine belief and according to the statistics, the rules of being gentlemanly must not have been taught in households that enforced the rules for how women are supposed to react to disrespect.

Because of this patriarchal mindset that women are inferior to men in many ways, it leaves areas open for women to be disrespected, and also aids the continuance of women going against other women to please said patriarchy, garnering the excuses of “Well, that wouldn’t have happened had she not done (this, that, or the other),” without actually blaming the assaulter. One could assume that that should be a case-by-case created opinion because certainly, not all women have fallen trap to that path. Alas, when taking into consideration that many cultures, even some of the most “free-willed” the power of “man” reigns supreme, and it is dangerous.

In America, women have a 1 out of 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. A 20% chance may sound like a little, and to many people, that would immediately push them into reckoning that that amount should not cause them to be concerned, but if we take the 157,000,000 women that live here, that would mean 31,400,000 would be taken advantage of.  But let’s not act like the number has to be high in order for people to care—assault is assault and disgusting under any circumstance.

It took until 1993 for marital rape to be labeled illegal in all fifty states because of the varying yet singular cultural beliefs that it is a part of a woman’s obligation as a wife to have sex with her husband, even when she did not want to. It was noted that between 10% and 14% of married women will be raped at some point during their marriages, 18% of female victims of spousal rape say their children witnessed the crime, and only 36% of all rape victims ever report the crime to the police. Marital rape is also the most underreported form of sexual assault. And to add insult to injury, marital rape is “semi-legal” in eight states.

Sexual assault is not the only thing women have to deal with when it comes to our safety—a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that homicide is a leading cause of death for women aged forty-four years old and younger.  In 2015, 3,519 girls and women were murdered, and early half of those victims were killed by a current or former male intimate partner. Girls and women don’t have to be romantically involved with a man to be killed by one either.

In September 2016, a woman was shot and killed for telling a man to stop grinding at her a party in New York. A few months before in June of the same year, a teenage girl was stabbed to death by a fellow schoolmate for turning down his prom invitation. I could go on and on with the ghastly occurrences, for it is not new and continues on to this day.

Why bombard with all these statistics? Because this is what many girls and women have to process when they are approached by men. Literal thoughts that run through our minds are, “Am I about to get raped? How far away is the nearest, safe place? What will he do if I say no? Will he chase me? Stalk me? Will he kill me?” and they are not exaggerations. Sometimes, it is legitimately scary when a man is working for our attention, because even the politest “no” could cost us our lives.

So dear men, when a woman tells you no, respect it. I know that our world’s ludicrous sense of patriarchy may have lead you to believe that you are in every way entitled to a woman’s body, but you are not. We should not have to care about your feelings being hurt or your pride being wounded. Many times, we are just trying to keep ourselves safe. Even when a woman allows you to be with her, it is her decision, not yours. Our bodies belong to us and you have zero right to question or disregard that.

And yes, we know “all men aren’t like that,” but please stop using this rebuttal whenever a woman has a general regard for her safety. It’s dismissive and does absolutely nothing to resolve the issue that there millions of men worldwide that are like that.

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I am a nineteen-year-old, African-American woman. I currently am a sophomore in college, and if I am not dedicating my time to creative writing, family, and friends, I work to educate those on all things social justice.

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