Originally written in 2018, I am distressed that this post still remains relevant in our society today. This year has felt unreal, dystopian, like the sims or a video game – "unprecedented times". Over the past few days however, the perils haven't been unprecedented at all. In fact, these past few days are eerily familiar, and that's why they've hurt the most. A young woman being raped, attacked and killed; police brutality at protests that demand justice for a black man who was killed by a police officer; an pre-teen girl being raped by 11 different men at various points in time... This year has been horrifying, but by far the most horrifying part of it all is that these events aren't unique to this world war three scare, ufo sighting, global pandemic, 2020.
Enough is enough.
We are tired, hurt, angry. We have been fighting these battles of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, discrimination against ones sexuality and sexual identity, for as long as I have been alive (and well before that), so it is beyond painful that the fight still continues to this day. But instead of letting this pain deter us, this pain, this ardent need for the inequality and injustice to end, is what fuels us and drives us to advocate for Justice for Tina, Justice for Jennifer, Justice for Uwa, Justice for George Floyd, Justice in the North, Justice for Belly Mujinga, Justice for Breonna Taylor; Justice. so that we never have to demand it through a hashtag again.
We are tired, we are hurt and we are angry, but more importantly, we are fighting. Through speaking out, donating, protests, and educating, we are fighting and we will win! This blog is aimed at educating everyone on a plethora of gender-related issues, and I'm fighting alongside a multitude of different platforms tackling gender discrimination (mostly in Nigeria) in their own way.
The Dcktator – Smashing the patriarchy
Gurls Talk – A judgement free safe space for women to share and listen (UK)
Fem Project – Supplying menstrual products to homeless people (California)
We Rise Initiative – An NGO dedicated to empowering women
Girls Talk London – Connecting women to businesses (UK)
A Conversation About Womanhood – A vulnerable and safe space for all things womanhood (UK/Nigeria)
We Will Not Be Silent – Dedicated to deconstructing rape culture in Nigeria
Empower Her Voice – Working to empower women worldwide
Roundtable Journal – A print journal celebrating the self, art and womanism
Herstory – Inspiring quotations from herstorical women
Feminist Fight Club – Patriarchy-fighting IG page, based on the bestselling book by Jessica Bennet
So before you dig in and get to learning about sexual violence so we all know better and live better, check all of these platforms out. Follow, share, donate, and don't stop fighting! We will win!
When I was younger I experienced something that I could only describe as 'not rape'. I told myself that nothing actually happened, even though it felt terribly wrong, because it was 'not rape' -- I couldn't define it. I couldn't speak about it, because 'nothing happened', I couldn't be angry, because 'nothing happened'! If I was familiar with the term sexual assault, my emotions would have been more liberated, I would have understood that something actually happened because 'sexual assault' happened.
For me, not being able to place what happened to me, made me deny myself of the hurt, I took away my freedom of expression because if it wasn't rape, it was 'nothing'. Now, I know better, I believe that these terms are so important; having that space, to me, is very important.
So, I have decided to write a post defining and describing a few terms pertaining to sexual violence, primarily so people don't deny their pain, as I did, by undermining their emotions because they can't place what happened to them. There is also the benefit of having a page to send ignorant naysayers who also try to undermine victims' emotions, and potential assailants who think certain behaviours are 'nothing'.
I chose not to stick to the legal definitions because those vary from place to place, and your moral compass shouldn't be based solely upon the whims of our lawmakers. So, the definitions below are more of a guide to decent social conduct, curated from multiple dictionary platforms and also documents from various organisations.
'Consent' on it's own is described as the permission/approval given by the consenting party, who agrees/complies with the thing for which you are seeking consent.
I have chosen to translate this basic definition, into one for 'Sexual Consent': permission from the consenting party, who has agreed to engage in sexual relations.
Consent can be refuted at any time, because permission can be denied at any time. Even though we might have agreed to have sex in the past, if I don't permit you to have sex with me in the present, then I have not given consent, and any attempt at sex would constitute sexual assault.
Consent attained through coercion or exertion of authority is not consent at all, because, although permission might have been given, the victim did not actually agree, they simply yielded. The former means that you can not beg, or use violence to attain consent - that is not consent! The latter means that you can not use your power over someone who defers to you to attain consent. For example a child cannot give consent to an adult, a worker cannot give consent to their boss - so long as the assailant is exerting their power over the victim, that is not consent!
Sexual assault is unwanted sexual engagement that has been made against the victim's will, without explicit consent. As consent cannot be obtained coercively, or by exerting your authority, begging someone into giving you head is sexual assault; instructing a member of your house staff to touch you sexually is sexual assault!
I used the term 'sexual engagement' because sexual assault isn't limited to unwanted sexual contact. Some have adopted three broad categories of sexual assault: Penetration crimes, contact with intimate body parts, and exposure of intimate body parts. So, for example, spraying water on a girl's white top so her breast show through, that's sexual assault; unsolicitedly grabbing a guy's penis in an attempt to start flirting, that's sexual assault; shoving ginger up a child's bum to force them to poo, that's sexual assault!
For a lot of people (potential assailants), these things are just a bit of fun or a part of life, but for the victims these are hideous and damaging acts that have been inflicted upon them, through no fault of their own.
Like sexual assault, sexual abuse is unwanted sexual engagement that has been made against the victim's will, and without their consent. The distinction that is most often made between the two is the duration of the abuse. Sexual assault is often used to describe infrequent, short-term/immediate sexual violence, whereas 'sexual abuse' constitutes more long term, repeated acts of sexual violence.
Considering it is an abuse of the trust and position of authority/care placed upon the assailants by the victims, engaging in sexual relations with someone who is incapable of giving consent, or dependent on the assailant constitutes sexual abuse. A care worker having sex with their elderly or mentally ill patient is guilty of sexual abuse; a teacher forcing intimacy with their student is guilty of sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment is described as repeated and persistent unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that typically creates an uncomfortable, or even hostile, environment as a result. It includes unwanted sexual attention, such as comments, looks or suggestions, inappropriate requests for sexual favours, and unnecessary and unwelcome physical sexual contact. Sexual harassment violates the dignity of its victims, by intimidating, degrading and humiliating them.
So persistently 'joking around' that your lesbian friends should have a threesome with you, despite the numerous rejections that indicate they not interested, is indeed a form of sexual harassment. What might seem like a joke (to potential assailants) results in an uncomfortable environment, born out of unwanted and unrelenting sexual advances.
Rape is the act of forcing someone to engage in sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration without their consent. As it involves sexual engagement without consent, rape is a form of sexual assault.
As stated above, "consent attained through coercion or exertion of authority is not consent at all." Using coercion or physical force in order to sleep with someone is rape, abusing your authority over someone in order to sleep with them is rape.
Furthermore, as "consent can be refuted at any time" having sex with someone who has expressed that they no longer want to engage in sexual intercourse is rape. If someone expresses to their spouse that they don't wish to have sex, or that they no longer wish to have sex (if sexual engagement has already begun), and their spouse continues to force themselves upon them, their spouse is guilty of rape.
Sexual violence is an umbrella term, defined as behaviour of a sexual nature that takes place without consent. Sexual violence includes using coercion (from physical force to blackmail, intimidation, and manipulation) to obtain a sexual act or permission for sexual engagement, between the victim and the assailant(s) and/or the victim and other parties.
Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment and Rape are all acts of sexual violence, along with human trafficking, forced marriage/cohabitation, such as child marriages, forced abortions and all other heinous acts of violence of a sexual nature.
Unfortunately, evil doers in this world have found so many different ways to commit sexual violence - the term is hideously broad, hence its subsets, a few of which I have included in this glossary. If there are particular terms and definitions you think ought to be included in this post, please drop me a message! And do the same if you think I have missed a particular part of a definition.
I hope you found this informative and helpful.
As always, thank you for reading xx