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July 11, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Student Health Services – Sexual Assault: Whose Responsibility?

You’re young, you’re female and you’ve just left home and possibly your home city. You’re also lonely—maybe shy, and taking some chances with alcohol so that you can mix more easily. You’re now in a high risk group to be raped or sexually assaulted! However, not being young, female, isolated from family, and not overindulging in alcohol does not give you immunity to rape. Anyone can be raped and rape
is common.

Does it help or hurt to know this? Well, both. Sexual assault affects all women, not just the direct victims. If we know about the risk factors, as women we can keep ourselves safe by staying at home, not working late hours, not drinking—in other words, we can limit our lives until we have no life. That hurts! And it won’t work!

It won’t work because sexual assault is not usually committed by strangers. This certainly does happen, but for the most part men will assault women who are their flatmates, partners, acquaintances, dates, sisters, daughters and step relatives. And serial rapists are simply men who have perfected ways to achieve sexual access irrespective of situational ethics and your consent.

Here’s how. He will meet you at a bar, cafe, party—anywhere. You will like him because he can be charming—some may say manipulative. He will ask if you would like to go somewhere else with him tonight or meet again and you will agree. Having carefully chosen his location to minimise others’ interference and your resistance, he will coerce you sexually. And you will doubt yourself and doubt your memory of how it went down because he will say you led him on, you consented, or it didn’t happen that way. And worse, if you agree to go anywhere with him, his defence team will argue, and usually successfully, that everything that happened from that moment on was consensual.

As women, how do we get the balance right between keeping ourselves safe and limiting our lives to the point of compromising self-actualisation? Can we trust and like men, while also developing a scrutinising eye for men who are sexual predators? Are these even the right questions to be asking?

Or are the questions better asked of men and by men? For instance, as men, how do you manage the cognitive dissonance which, as women, we are sure you must have if you suborn the will of our mothers, sisters, friends, and daughters to your sexual needs? As men, how do you not understand our right of control over our bodies? As men, how do you not understand the great harm that you do us?

In my next article on sexual assault, I will talk more about this harm. *
Linda Beckett (PhD)


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Comments (8)

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  1. Simon says:

    As a male that was sexually assaulted by a female… I was just wondering if there was going to be any coverage of sexual assault that didn’t seem to think of men and rapists as being synonyms. I’ve come to accept that support of male victims is pretty much non-existent, but tire of hearing how I can stop sexual assault… I tried, I failed, and have lived the last 5 years trying to deal with that.

  2. Jono says:

    I resent the tone of this article, the last paragraph in particular. I believe the article faces an important issue that must be addressed but I did not enjoy feeling as though I was being accused of being a rapist simply because I am a man. As Simon suggests, Man and Rapist are not synonyms.

    I wonder if a similar tone was used in an article but with the gender roles reversed, what the kind of fallout would be? I am sure the writer would be deemed sexist or misogynistic at least.

  3. bridget says:

    Just goes to show, they’ll give out PhDs to just about anyone these days

  4. Salient says:

    Please feel free to disagree with our writers but please do not slander them.
    Yes, the people whose comments are no longer up, that means you.

  5. Kay says:

    Some men rape women or girls. Some men rape other men or boys. A few women rape men or boys, and a few women rape other women or girls. The greatest number of reported rapes is by men attacking women. This may be a reflection of their greater strength and social conditioning than any moral distinction. Certainly there is little official recognition of the issue with male survivors of sexual assault and very little support for them.

    Research in the USA suggests that during their lifetime 1 in 3 or 4 girls and women will be sexually assaulted, and 1 in 6 or 7 boys and men. Of soldiers treated for psychological problems after serving in the Gulf states, 30% are treated for sexual assaults by their peers.

    Anyone can be a sexual predator, especially those who have some form of power or authority over others. Striving for equality in relationships and building nonsexual friendships may help with that safety Linda suggests.

  6. Jono says:

    What? Woman dont have free will? Or men for that matter? Are we back in the 50s? Shit happens, it sucks, but its not like all men and all woman act the way this article suggests. Narrow minded views like this do more harm to the fragile relationship that has formed between men and woman the past few decades. You could certainly ask a spefic man how he made the choice to rape, but to ask all men how we make the choice to rape, that is pretty dam sexist. They must be handing out PHD’s in cereal boxes these days.

  7. Simon says:

    I’m aware that it’s generally men that rape… last i checked the law is written to specify penile penetration. People who are physically female can not rape, as the law is not there to classify sexual assaults they may choose to commit.

    My issue is the inclusion of all women as being harmed by sexual assault, and all males as being perps… when it’s just clearly not true – by any stretch of the imagination. I realise it’s an emotive issue, and it’s one I generally don’t get involved in debating… but for the sake of other male survivors of sexual assault, I’d just like to state that they don’t need to feel like they are bad people – and it’s not all people who are against sexual assault that make sexist generalisations.

  8. Lizzie says:

    This comment is in specific reply to Simon’s last post. Firstly I’d like to state my position as being sympathetic to your complaint about there being little support available for male victims of sexual assault. Especially, in the case where a man has been a survivor of an assault by a woman. I understand that often the police response to these (and other cases that don’t adhere to current rape myths) can be inadequate and prejudicial, if the incident even gets reported.

    In NZ law – sexual violation is the legal term that encompasses both rape and unlawful sexual connection. Although rape does involve penile penetration, unlawful sexual connection does not and so there is no gender requirement.

    (check out these sites: and

    In discussions of rape and sexual violation, the issue of being against men, or as you’ve said making rapists and men synonymous often arise. Its difficult for feminists because as you’ve accepted – in most cases the rapist is male. As a feminist, the issue for me is the pervasiveness in society of maleness being synonymous with dominance over women and the culture of rape that surrounds that.

    What i mean by this – is that women, since the time they are young, receive messages from the media, school, their parents and other agencies that they need to monitor their behavior to avoid rape. I would argue that this does harm ALL women – regardless of whether they are actually assaulted. I’ll spare you the full analysis, but personally believe that rape culture harms all people, men and women.

    Sorry if this sounds preachy – just wanted to try and clear a few things up..

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