One thing that I find absolutely fascinating about sexual assault is that, in my experience, in certain situations you are asked a barrage of questions along the lines of, “Did you fight back?” “Did you kick him?” “Did you scream in his face?” “Did you punch him?” “What did you do to try to get away?”
And this is the only crime I know of (and I could be totally incorrect here, please feel free to comment), but it’s the only crime I know of where you can be admonished for not fighting…
If I were being kidnapped on the street, and I was terrified of attacking the person, or maybe I didn’t think I was strong enough to overpower him, would that change his chances of being convicted when I was found?
If I were being mugged and I was too afraid or shocked in the moment to fight back, would I not be able to report my purse as stolen property?
There are many reasons not to “fight back” when someone is having sex with you when you don’t want it…
Maybe you’re in shock. Maybe you’re terrified – not necessarily just of him physically in that moment. You might be afraid of that.
You might also be afraid of retaliation on any level if you fight back to hard – whether he starts talking poorly about you in your circle of friends, or tries to take steps to hurt your career.
You might be afraid that if you do fight back… what if you actually do get free, but in the process you seriously injure him – and he calls the cops. All of a sudden are you the one who’s going to be in trouble?
There are 1,000 reasons to be scared.
Someone grabbed me in a subway once and I whipped around to potentially fight him, but he was already running away…
Someone tried to stop me on the street and usher me into his car, and I got away as fast as I could (without laying a hand on him, partially thanks to a stranger who saw and looked out for me).
Those are two different scenarios – both scary, both inappropriate. And I am the same person in both. And yet, in one, I tried to fight and in one I tried to flee, because while making a split-second decision of what’s going to protect you, sometimes it seems safer not to fight.
[Side note: In all my reading, and talking with a therapist (and before her, a helpline), and other women, I learned something I thought was really interesting, which is that we generally learn that our bodies have “fight or flight” as our options when we’re under stress… But really we actually have flight, or flight, or freeze, or appease. And oftentimes people freeze or appease… (Those are definitely the two I learned toward – and two that I think women are sometimes trained to do…)
Anyway, I’m maybe tangenting a little… My point is, I find it odd that sexual assault is the one crime where people seem to expect this vigilante justice… And it doesn’t seem 100% fair to me.