Don't Stay Silent: Remember No Means No
Written by Emma Burbidge Posted in Mental Illness, Sex and Relationships
In October of this year, the country was shocked by allegations made against Sir Jimmy Saville, the late BBC TV and radio presenter, as police pursued 120 leads of sexual abuse that were made against him. The abuse spanned decades and involved more than 50 potential victims, from Stoke Mandeville Hospital where Saville volunteered, to the BBC’s Corporation House.
The scandal revealed a startling culture of abuse throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. What it showed was that not only was abuse allowed to happen, but that these victims were so frightened of not being believed, that they remained silent for decades. This should not have happened, but it did because attitudes towards sex and relationships were different back then, and because rape is such a difficult crime for police to prove.
What is rape or sexual abuse?
Rape or any form of sexual abuse is a crime. It is when one person forces another person to have sex with them or touch them inappropriately, or it could be any form of sexual exploitation.
Sex happens in private so there are no witnesses other than people involved. Rape victims often find it hard to go to the police because they think that it is their fault, that they won’t be believed, they had been drinking and can’t recall everything, or because they don’t want to disclose full details of their sexual life and history to the court. They often feel guilty, ashamed or somehow responsible.
While this fear of divulging something painful might be understandable, remaining silent could be even more dangerous. Only 93% of rapes are reported to police, isn’t this a startling statistic?
While we often hear stories of women being attacked on the streets, the far more common form of rape or abuse is that which is committed by someone you know. This could be someone you know well, a friend or a family member. It may even be someone you have strong feelings for, such as your boyfriend, a family member or community leader.
Just because you are going out with someone or know them, does not mean that you have to have sex with them or that they can take advantage of you - the person who you deserve to be with should understand this.
It is these situations which make it harder to report a rape when it occurs because the victims are scared of dobbing in people that they know. The truth is you should report it, because if you don’t the person who raped you could rape you again or rape someone else, and it makes it even more difficult for police to deal with rape allegations.
When is the right time?
The media glorifies sex and makes it seem like something that everyone should be involved in. Your friends might tell you they've had sex with lots of people, but they are probably lying. Statistics show that more than 90% of people wait until they are over 16 to lose their virginity.
Just because 16 is the age of consent in the UK, doesn’t mean that the moment you turn 16 you have to lose your virginity. You should wait as long as you want to have sex with someone who you love and feel comfortable with. You should not be pressurised into doing things that you do not want to just because ‘your friends are doing it’.
You should only have sex when you:
- Both are aged 16 or over and;
- Both are ready for it and;
- Have some protection (condoms etc) and:
- Both have understood the potential implications
If you have unprotected sex you could become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease. It is advised that you talk to each other about protection and your feelings before you embark down a road which could have irreversible consequences.
Imagine that you have been going out with someone a while, and your boyfriend asks you to have sex with him. You think you are ready and decide to go through with it, however when you are alone together and start taking clothes off you start to feel uncomfortable. You tell him that you do not want to go any further but instead of stopping he keeps touching you and getting you to have sex with him.
This sort of scenario is one of the most common forms of rape. The law states that if one party say no, and the other keeps on going further when you don’t want them to, then this is rape.
If you are uncomfortable you should say no. If they ask you why – you shouldn’t need a reason, they should just stop as no means no – then you can say that you feel uncomfortable, you want to wait until you know the other person better, or you don’t want to risk getting pregnant.
If you have been raped then you should tell the police as soon as possible, especially if it is someone you know, as medical examinations can sometimes indicate whether someone has been raped. The only way to stop rape and abuse, and get the support you need, is to tell someone, whether it is a friend, family member, social worker or even one of our TCHC advisers.
Don’t stay silent if you have been raped or abused – tell someone. Psychological symptoms can include severe depression, drug addiction, suicide and problems with personal relationships later in life. Abuse destroys lives, and it will haunt you long term, so say something as it wasn’t your fault!