They are not asking for it

Kynli Smith
A young redheaded girl sits in a living room in a white house with green shutters.
A familiar face takes advantage of the young girl while the girl sits in silence. The abuse continues from the time the girl was 7 year old until she is 12. The girl continues her silence about the abuse for 10 years.
I am that girl. But my story is all too common.
I recently heard about a court case here in Big Horn County where a guardian of a sexual abuse victim shamed the victim in open court when the guardian implied the child was asking or wanting the sexual abuse to happen.
As a child sexual assault victim and survivor, a child is never “asking for it.”
A rape victim is never “asking for it.”
It doesn’t matter how old someone is, what he or she was wearing, how much he or she had to drink, a sexual assault victim is never “asking for it.”
Some sexual abuse statistics, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):
• 44 percent of victims are under age 18.
• 80 percent are under age 30.
• Every 107 seconds, another sexual assault occurs.
• There are an average of 293,000 instances (victims age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year
• 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
• 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
Part of the problem starts with what happened in a courtroom at the Big Horn County Court-house: victim shaming.
Most of the time victims feel so much shame that when they see and feel shamed by others, it makes them even more silent. They are even more willing to sweep the abuse under the rug.
When one victim is shamed, all victims are.
I along with so many other sexual abuse victims have had to struggle with shame. The shame of having someone take advantage of you weighs your soul down.
I remember spending most of my childhood with weight on my chest — sometimes it was like I couldn’t even breathe.
But as I started talking with others and sharing my story, I realized there is a ways to help with the weight of shame.
I realized that I am not alone. Sexual abuse has happened to family, friends, coworkers, teachers and neighbors. Odds are you know a victim of sexual assault, too.
Poet, activist, actress and child abuse survivor, Dr. Maya Angelou said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
We sexual assault victims should not have to live in shame and silence. We must empower each other. We need to share our stories. We need to speak up and talk about our abuse to some-one we trust. We need to report the abuse to law enforcement.
When you hear someone shaming a victim, speak up and let them know that is not acceptable.
Sexual assault victims must come to the realization that they are worthy. They are worthy of love, and they are worthy of not living life in shame and silence.
If we all work together we can start to lift up the never-ending rug sexual abuse is swept under.
By talking about sexual abuse, by seeking justice and not living in shame, maybe the next sexual abuse victim will say “they were asking for it” as the bars close behind their abuser.