Maybe she knew him.
Maybe she didn't.
Or maybe it was a family member.
Maybe she was drinking or maybe she was a child, in pajamas, getting ready for bed.
Maybe he guilted her or maybe he hurt her.
And maybe she wasn't awake at all.
Maybe he didn't want it. And maybe no one will take him seriously.
And maybe, just maybe none of this matters.
Sexual assault is a black and white issue; and maybe we're trying to create a gray area, to let ourselves off the hook, by asking the wrong questions.
Dresses can't ask for it and alcohol isn't' consent, but maybe those are easier issues to address than a human committing a dark, unquestionably wrong, act of violence.
"Sexual assault victim" isn't a type. It isn't one gender, one color or one persuasion. But maybe our society wants it to be. Maybe that's easier to wrap our minds around. Maybe, by giving ourselves an out in that gray area, we've created a suffocating double standard where "It's happened to everyone I know, you're not alone" and "She reported it, but no one believed her" can coexist.
And, sure, maybe there's nothing new to say about sexual assault;
It wasn't her fault. No means no. It can happen to men, too. It may not be new, but maybe we should keep saying it until it's heard.
Maybe someday we won't need an awareness month for something that could be so simple. Because maybe someday we will all contribute to a society that doesn't drive toxic masculinity and victim blaming.
Maybe we'd get there faster if we empowered our survivors. In any awareness month, we see these men and women bravely share their story, which usually includes an inner-monologue of:
Maybe he didn't mean to.
Maybe I should have fought harder.
Would he have killed me? Maybe.
What's going to happen? Maybe I'll get fired.
Maybe it wasn't that bad. I mean, it could have been worse.
Maybe I did lead him on.
Maybe everyone is going to blame me.
He could find out if I tell the cops? Okay, maybe not.
Yeah, maybe it wasn't that bad.
So, maybe we don't need to impose our gray area excuses on our victims. Maybe they're in a dark enough place on their own. Would creating a safe place to share their story, get resources and help and healing be better for everyone? No question about it.
Cydney Baron is the editor of the Claremore Progress.