I'm a Sexual Assault Survivor: What is Revictimisation?
The Repetition Compulsion by Farahnaz Mohammed explores the topic of why sexual assault victims are vulnerable to additional sexual assaults. Revictimisation isn't a term exclusive to sexual assault, but for any invasive attack, whether that be burglary or domestic assault victims. I've been sexually assaulted on three separate occasions, however, re-victimisation wasn't a phenomenon in which I was aware of until last year.
Why do we Need to Discuss Revictimisation?
Mohammed gives plenty of theories that contribute to why re-victimisation occurs and how it affects survivors of different ages. For example, victims assaulted at a young age are taught to be silent, a mechanism that they continue to sustain when assaulted later in life. However, whenever revictimisation is discussed, it tends to be very clinical and very much based upon issues that lie with the victim.
However, the one I would like to shed light on today is the impact of sexual assault stigma on how survivors perceive and deal with when it comes to victimisation. There is the idea that sexual assault victims believe that they deserve to be assaulted again, as some sort of internalised victim-blaming. The lack of education surrounding what constitutes consent and boundaries means that a sufficient proportion of sexual assault is normalised. Therefore, if a victim is not alert to the fact that they've been sexually assaulted then they won't know that they need to avoid it in the future.
I've been sexually assaulted on three occasions, all very different because of my relationships with the perpetrators; the first was a friend, the second was someone I barely knew and the third was someone that I was dating at the time. There's no common theme between the three, so no one reason why revictimisation occurred, apart from the fact that those boys shouldn't have fucking raped me in the first place. Was it because I didn't know how to say no? Absolutely not, in two incidences I clearly said no more than once and the other occasion I was passed out, drunk, after throwing up. Was it because I was assaulted as a child/teenager? Absolutely not.
So we need to start to rephrase the argument.
Revictimisation needs to be discussed as a problem with society rather than that of the victim, as it's very easy to question and assume that if someone is assaulted more than once then responsibility lies with them.
What can we do?
Education, education, education. It's easier said than done as we require a cultural reset when it comes to consent and sexual assault. That's not to say that in the past decade we haven't taken huge strides, but it's still not enough.
Organisations and teaching institutions have gone mad when it comes to sexual assault education, completing tickbox exercises to prove they have done their bit in preventing sexual assault. For example, UK universities have introduced consent classes predominantly for young men as a makeshift solution to the disgustingly high rates of sexual assault on campus. However, if a victim doesn't know they're being raped, then it's going to continue.
Secondly, listen to survivors. You may have extensively read up on sexual assault, or consider yourself an ally, but you don't have the survivor's experience. All of these factors feed into each other, as when survivors are given the platform to share their experiences, then education surrounding sexual assault and consent improves.