To view a version of this article on a white background, please tap/click HERE
Let me first make two statements that need to be kept in mind while reading this:
The things that I am saying are the rights of people DO NOT apply to one who is trying to violate another’s rights, or who is being questioned/detained by law enforcement. Once you’ve done something to be in that position, your rights are limited to being treated fairly and legally.
Do not mistake the fact that I speak of evaluating the risk for becoming a victim as any form of victim-shaming. It is realism, plain and simple. The fact still remains that nothing ANYONE does, or does not do, ever makes it justifiable for someone to pursue or touch another against their wishes.
Why did I feel the need to make those statements?
Because I’m about to write on a controversial topic and, inevitably, someone will try to get very technical. I’ll be having none of that.
When reading my articles, you need to use common sense, and also be thinking from a realistic perspective. Reading the article in it’s entirety is the only way to fully understand the point.
You really should be doing that all the time, but not everyone does. How did this come up? Well, I see videos or posts on social media, and my thoughts on it make my head want to explode until I get it out- resulting in me writing.
This one is about sexual conduct.
What is inappropriate and aggressive, how to evaluate yourself for being an aggressor, how to evaluate your risk of becoming a victim, AND things we need to be doing to help prevent all forms of inappropriate sexual conduct, whether it’s in the workplace, school, or a social setting. This is something everyone needs to be doing, but no one really loves to look critically at their own behavior, or try to correct an issue that has been festering for decades, or longer.
(sidenote: I don’t use the words “inappropriate sexual conduct” or “sexual violence” to make them seem less than rape or assault. Sexual violence includes those, and any other unwanted sexual aggression, so I use them to encompass all acts.)
Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, & Sexual Violence
According to the Department of Justice, the term “sexual assault” means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, Tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” They classify dating violence as “violence committed by a person who is, or has been in, a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim…” RAINN.org defines the term sexual violence as “an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse.”
Whatever you want to call it, learning how to conduct yourself appropriately in regards to sex and dating, in all environments, is something I think all young people, and even many adults, need to be taught. Somehow, it hasn’t quite been getting through to everyone because some are still out here acting like they have a right to do whatever they want.
This is to set the record straight about sexual conduct, just in case no one ever has. You DON’T have the right to do whatever you want, no matter who you are.
No matter how polite or charming you are when approaching someone, they have every right to deny interacting with you. No one is required to “like” you. Just because you approach someone in the right way doesn’t mean they are obligated to give you their attention, or anything else you ask for.
Yes, I do write about kindness and compassion, and believe in them wholeheartedly, but even being kind and compassionate doesn’t give one the right to expect something from someone. Reciprocation is awesome, but you should be doing those things because they are the right thing to do- not to get something for it.
Sexual violence and harassment are a huge issue, and there are people on both sides who are very passionate about whatever aspect they are arguing because they aren’t looking at the big picture. From an intellectual standpoint, you’d think it would be rather simple- all forms of sexual misconduct and violence are bad. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.
Many people immediately have a strong opinion just hearing the words sexual conduct. I’ve found that politics, religion, and personal experiences very much influence the subject. If I were asking people, I’d get them to think about it from a non-sexual perspective, so they’d be more likely to answer truthfully because of the political aspects of the sexual violence issue.
I’d ask “Would you be okay with people randomly screaming, hitting, kicking, or tickling you whenever they want?” Most people are going to have an issue with at least one of those things, and will probably be pretty indignant that someone suggested they SHOULD be okay with those things happening.
That reaction is the appropriate reaction- but, if you aren’t okay with those things happening, then you shouldn’t be okay with unwanted sexual advances happening. When asked, most people would probably say that they don’t want to be touched by ANYONE in a way they are uncomfortable with, but yet they’ll turn right around and act like some aspect of sexual harassment should be considered okay.
In many cases, it’s not even that they aren’t decent people. It’s all the other outside factors and influences that get thrown in with this topic that create much of the controversy. So, this is to bring the subject down to the very basics.
The only “sides” of this topic should be victims vs. aggressors. If you question this, you should definitely probably read on, and make some changes.
Some in the dating world think that if someone is charming or polite, it means you have to respond to them, or give them your number; and even worse, if they spend money on you, they think they’re entitled to something more. There are even those who believe they are just such a catch that ANYONE should be glad to interact with them.
I’m going to go ahead and let you know- NO, that is not how it works. Anyone has a right to ignore you if they so choose. Even if you’ve spent a fortune on someone, it does NOT give you the right to touch them, or even continue pursuing them, if they’ve indicated that they want you to stop.
For those of you that haven’t quite grasped that yet- there is NO approach you can use, and no amount of money you can spend, no amount owed to you, and no position you could possibly have that makes it okay to keep going once you’re told no. None. Nothing they’ve said before they said “no”, “stop,” or anything similar- matters. I don’t care what they wore, said, or did up until that point, or what they are wearing at that moment. It’s called SELF-CONTROL, and everyone needs to learn it.
My Message To Victims of Sexual Violence
In the course of researching some specifics during the editing of this piece, I ran across a tumblr page with some very raw, moving stories from victims of all kinds of sexual misconduct and violence. On this page were endless victims telling their stories, some blaming themselves because of meaningless technicalities. One said because they kissed the aggressor first, they thought it would be considered consent, even though objections were made about going further than a kiss.
My message to these people:
AS SOON AS YOU OBJECT, OR ARE UNABLE TO OBJECT- consent is gone.
The second you shake your head no, or say no, or stop, or push them away, that’s you no longer giving consent and the other person needs to stop. If you are in a state where you cannot consent or object, they need to stop.
No matter what the situation.
There is no gray area.
If you think you know of a gray area, please comment below or email me. I’m happy to discuss it, but odds are, your “gray area” will be perfectly clear to me and I will clear it up for you. I told you in the beginning, those technicalities are crap.
No matter what gender you are, you have no right to continue pursuing someone who has indicated they do not want to be pursued, or who can longer object. No matter what social status you are, how “hot” you are, how rich you are, what you’ve done for anyone, or how powerful you are- you have no right to continue pursuing someone once they’ve said anything indicating for you to stop, or if they are unable to object. Yeah, I know I repeated myself. I meant to.
I’m sure I have some of you in an uproar already. I can hear it in my head as I write- “Well, that’s pretty rigid, I wouldn’t have my spouse if I’d given up after one try,” or the ever-so-infamous, “Oh, they don’t mean any harm! They’re just being teenagers/men/women,”- there are so many different scenarios. One of them being “Things have always been that way.” So, let’s get on into that aspect.
I don’t care how long something has been acceptable in society, if it’s wrong- it’s wrong.
Keeping up the idea that anyone in any position of authority, or anyone with enough influence or money, should be able to do whatever they want, and get away with it, is what has created society’s current issues with many things. It’s time we get over the old ways and address the fact that there are some things we got wrong, and now need to correct. The way we view sexual conduct, and how we educate about, and prevent unwanted behavior, are two of the biggest issues we face.
If we don’t make changes on the most basic of levels, we will continue having the same problems in the future. This applies to so many of the big societal issues we have, but the rest each need their own articles. This one is about teaching people how to respect others’ rights when it comes to sexual conduct and evaluating your risk of becoming a victim.
Correcting “the way things are”
Correcting them begins at the basic level of teaching our youth the appropriate way to conduct themselves when it comes to interacting with others. Apparently, we haven’t been doing such a great job, or maybe some have, and that’s why these changes are happening.
Either way, we need it to be on a much larger scale and it needs to be very obvious what we are teaching them about. No more hiding it in one day lessons, or just having a short chapter in a textbook (yes, some places are still doing only this.) I’m a reasonable person… most of the time (no one is perfect.) I am 100% aware that it can be typical behavior in the dating world to “play hard to get,” but that kind of thinking is also a part of the problem. If no one recognizes that education has to be a large part of the solution, things will never get better.
How Do We Do This?
Leaving it up to parents alone to parent properly can be a toss up. Whether it should be that way, or not- that’s the reality. We have too many people that don’t want to approach those subjects with their children, or just don’t parent at all, and the kid is left to figure it out themselves. Unfortunately, it’s usually by asking friends, what they see on tv, and in movies, or what they find on the internet. None of which are a great resource for a child who is unable to determine what information is credible.
So, the next logical step from the parent is the educator. The problem with educators teaching children these things seems to be that no one wants to define the parameters of the curriculum in fear of upsetting people. No one wants to say “It’s only appropriate to ask someone out X number of times before you must leave them alone,” because who decides how many times are allowed? How do they decide?
I’m guessing you’re starting to see the issue with teaching these things in school.
The parameters aren’t completely defined. That’s just the facts. There are so many factors that influence these types of situations that it isn’t as simple as saying you can only ask someone out three times before you have to give up. Trying to explain in a way that preteens and teenagers will understand and accept can be complicated. What may be better is to ask certain questions and have them evaluate their own answers against a set of guidelines. This method could definitely work for adults.
Combining the evaluation of their behavior with education can make a huge difference. Having them evaluate their own personal risk factors, then giving them preventative measures, educating them about appropriate behaviorial standards, sexual violence, and what resources are available to them if something does happen, is really the only way to make a significant impact. Setting the standard that false accusations are absolutely unacceptable is also a priority, and should be emphasized while they are simultaneously being properly educated about what inappropriate sexual conduct is.
The first step should be to make sure they aren’t being aggressors themselves. There are people, both teens and adults, who don’t realize that their own behavior is making someone uncomfortable. To determine if you are behaving in a way that could be considered inappropriate, or even predatory, I’m including a set of questions to evaluate yourself with at the end of this piece.
Be honest, and really think about your answers if you believe yourself to be a decent person. Maybe even nicely and professionally ask a few people (not strangers, coworkers, or acquaintances- that could be an issue,) if there is anything you do that makes others uncomfortable. There really are some people who aren’t able to see how they are affecting people, but there are also people who just don’t care. Taking the time to check yourself is the only way to make sure you aren’t being the aggressor.
If you ARE an aggressor, or predator, purposefully, or not, you should go to a mental health professional and get to the core of why you feel the need to violate others’ rights.
What right do you have to prey on someone and impose yourself? None. It doesn’t matter who you are. None of it means more than the basics of humanity. When it comes down to it, we are all human. We are all born into this world, completely helpless, and have to rely on another to keep us alive until we can start doing so ourselves.
We are all powerless to control the universe, and whatever it chooses to throw at us. We will all eventually die. In the end, you can’t manipulate, influence, buy, talk, argue, beat, or lie your way out of the limitations of being a human who is mortal, so you are the same as everyone else. The only thing that will really matter is whether you regret how you’ve lived, or whether you can say you really tried to live a fulfilling life.
On the other side of this conversation, and a somewhat controversial thing to say-
Evaluating your risk for becoming a victim is a really helpful step towards preventing it. Don’t take my statement the wrong way. This is not victim-shaming at all. This is being realistic, and that’s what I strive for.
It is simply unrealistic to say there is never anything that you can do to help protect yourself. It’s the same concept as wearing a seatbelt, looking both ways before crossing the street, or exercising, We teach about these things from the time kids can understand sentences because they are preventative measures that have proven effective at saving or improving lives.
While it’s true there are going to be some extra awful people who love the challenge of going after someone who has taken all the precautions, and plenty of “wolves in sheeps clothing,” it is also true that MANY times, crimes committed are crimes of opportunity. Since we can only have an impact on certain aspects of a situation, we have to focus on the ones we can affect, so that means avoiding the people and situations that give red flags.
The easier target is more likely to be gone after for the average criminal. While it will NEVER make it okay for someone to touch or pursue you when you don’t want them to, there are some things ro consider avoiding. These are things that may make it more likely an aggressor will have the opportunity to try something.
Let me state again, for those in the back who may not have understood me before-there are NO circumstances that make it okay. None. I don’t care where anyone was, what they were doing, saying, implying, or wearing. The fault lies with the person who takes it upon themselves to violate another’s rights. You can use my questions at the end of this piece to evaluate your risk for becoming a victim.
You cannot control someone lying to, or taking advantage of you. You cannot control someone not stopping when you try to. You cannot read minds and know someone’s real intentions to know they will hurt you. You cannot control someone in a position of authority, power, or influence disguising themselves as a good person, but committing horrible acts. Those things are on them.
You can evaluate your life and decide where to implement preventative measures. You CAN educate yourself on the warning signs that may be a red flag. You can take self-defense classes to help protect yourself if someone tries to hurt you. You can help others that may be in a bad position by spreading awareness.
Parents, talk to your kids. I plan to write a detailed guide to doing so in the future, but for now, you can use the evaluation questions at the end of this piece as a reference for the things they need to be learning. I am also going to be launching two more pages on Written by Dida. One is going to cover sexual conduct/violence, and have resources and support available. The other will be Talk To Your Kids, and will have resources for discussing those hard topics that are awkward to talk about. I encourage you to visit these pages often since I’m just now getting them up. Resources and information will be added as often as I can manage. (Pages will be linked here when live)
Sexual Conduct & Violence on Written by Dida
A note on accusing someone of sexual misconduct or violence:
If you accuse someone of any type of sexual misconduct or violence when it isn’t true- you are on the same level and side of the problem that the aggressors are- and it’s the wrong side. I don’t care how bad you want to hurt someone, when you wrongfully accuse anyone, you’re only hurting the real victims. You’re making it so much harder for real victims to get the justice they deserve. Stop falsely accusing people of things they didn’t do. It’s despicable and hurts so many people.
Are you an aggressor? Evaluate your behavior:
1. Do you say things that may make people uncomfortable? Think about this as if you were in a professional setting, church, or in front of your grandmother. Would you say those things in front of those people (and they not be upset?)
2. Are you paying attention for cues (facial expressions, making excuses to get away, avoidance, etc.,) from people that you make them uncomfortable? Some aggressors don’t ever really pay attention to the reactions of who they are interacting with. Be conscious of how you are affecting others.
3. Are you stopping and backing off when someone says “No,” “Stop,” “I don’t think so,” “Probably not,” or any other negative response, or do you keep at it?
4. Do you make remarks about anyone’s body outside of an appropriate setting? (i.e. You are not a trainer at a gym, doctor in an office, coach on a field, etc.)
5. Have you had to “talk someone into” any type of interaction, or get them intoxicated? Maybe you just thought they were “playing hard to get,” but recognizing the problematic behavior is what this is all about.
6. If rejected by someone, do you get back at them by starting sexual rumours, or calling them names that imply anything to do with your relationship or sex? This behavior is very often exhibited by aggressors when the non-aggressor tries to end contact.
**DISCLAIMER: Even if someone engages in every single risky behavior out there, it doesn’t make unwanted sexual aggression okay. It does not absolve the aggressor because it ultimately comes down to this: self-control is so named because you have to control yourself. No matter the temptation, whether it’s pleasure, revenge, or anything else.
Evaluating your risk for being a victim:
**Please note that not one of these questions has ANYTHING to do with what someone is wearing, nor do they ask anything about how far a flirtation is taken. Those things are irrelevant. The responsibility to exhibit self-control outweighs all. These questions also only ask about things that may help improve your safety. We do not fault victims of gunshots for not wearing bulletproof vests wherever they go. So even if someone isn’t taking these questions into account, it doesn’t at all mean they are at fault if something happens.
1. Do you think the best way to handle relationships is to play mind games with people? Purposefully all about them one minute, and not the next because you think that will keep them interested? Or, pretend to like someone to get what you want? This can create confusion. Confusion can lead to things happening that you don’t want, or expect, creating the opportunity for you to become a victim.
2. Do you often put yourself into questionable situations where it’s more likely you’ll encounter an aggressor? I’m not talking about going to the mall or grocery store, or even most clubs or parties. I mean places where you know there to be not-so-good happenings and unsavory types hanging about?
3. Are you going out alone late at night, or with people who won’t look out for you? Are you doing things secretly, not letting anyone know where you are? The less you encounter aggressors, the less likely you’ll become a victim.
4. Do you work in an industry that uses sexuality somehow? If so, you need to be aware that your risk is definitely going to increase. It doesn’t make it okay that it happens, but it’s reality, and something you need to understand. If you choose to work in an industry like this, you have to be even more vigilant about protecting yourself. There will always be bad people trying to take advantage of situations, no matter how well we teach our children.
5. Are you being smart when going on a date with someone? Like telling friends who you’re going out with and where you’re going. Are you keeping the first several dates in public places until you get to know them better? Do you have a plan in case of an emergency where you feel uneasy or threatened?
6. Do you often get under the influence of substances that alter your ability to make good decisions? (I.e. getting black out drunk at a party, leaving bars alone with strangers, etc.)
Think about all these things. Figure out where you stand and how to protect yourself as much as possible. Help spread awareness about what is not okay. For more information, visit my page – Sexual Conduct & Violence