“Standing behind predators makes prey of us all.”
― DaShanne Stokes
Being a child sex abuse prevention advocate means traveling a long journey. Like most journeys, it has its challenges. It also has those moments when you reevaluate, and realize you’ve miscalculated where you are on the route.
In other words, sometimes you believe you’re further ahead than you really are. Sometimes you’ve gone too far ahead of the group you’re traveling with. I bring this up due to the recent events on an Instagram Live.
For those who aren’t aware of what I’m referring to, two women were having a public discussion. They invited a 3rd person to join them. That person had misrepresented who they were, and when the 3rd party came onto the camera, it was a naked male who was making lewd motions.
Some people are disgusted by what happened. Others perceive it to be a joke, and are even going as far as sharing the video across social media platforms. And of course, everyone has an opinion.
I’d like to use this opportunity to clarify some myths and misconceptions that there are when it comes to sexual abuse (whether involving a child or an adult). Some of these will deal directly with the video and some will deal with other, more general cases of sexual abuse.
1. Sexual abuse doesn’t need to involve touching.
The mere speaking about your body parts, someone else’s body parts, or forcing them to look at private areas are all forms of abuse.
2. But the woman in the video was laughing.
People respond differently during these events. Sometimes people laugh when they are nervous or simply when they don’t know how to respond. Additionally, sometimes it takes a victim time to process what exactly happened.
3. Can’t you just take a joke?
This is a common gaslighting phrase that narcissists use when you call them out over their insults and abuses. Rather than take responsibility, or apologize, they tell you that you misinterpreted their “joke”. Sexual assault isn’t a joke. Forcing someone to watch pornography isn’t a joke.
4. It’s over and done with, let’s just move on.
That’s like telling someone who is sad that they should just smile. You aren’t fixing anything, you’re just hoping that the problem will disappear. Out of sight/Out of mind doesn’t work when it comes to abuse. It just makes the problem get much worse.
5. But she did…
Abuse isn’t justified. PERIOD. Also, whilst there were 2 other females on camera, there were plenty of people watching off camera. They are also victims.
6. You can see from the video that she enjoyed it
Refer to answer #2. But even in a situation where the viewer did take it as a joke, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t abuse. Flashing genitals at someone doesn’t become legal, or illegal because of how the viewer responds. It is the consent that makes it legal and there was zero consent here. Not from the women on the video and not from those viewing it.
7. She’s complaining to get publicity
No one chooses to get abused. No one wants to get abused. If someone is brave enough to step forward, be vulnerable and share their story, they do so to prevent others from having to suffer a similar fate, not because they want publicity.
8. It isn’t right that we are discussing such things
Ah, the old “we don’t air our dirty laundry” defense. There are two types of people who use this defense, enablers and those who prefer to have their head in the sand (and want company).
9. She shouldn’t have been on Instagram in the first place
That’s a modern version of “She shouldn’t have been wearing that”. It is classic victim blaming and it plays no role in the level of guilt of the abuser. Forgetting to lock my car doesn’t give someone the right to steal it.
10. This is just one bad apple
Yes, this was a bad apple. But seeing and hearing the defending of the bad apple is revealing that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
11. Okay, I’ll agree that it is wrong, but it wasn’t anything bad. Plus it was online, it wasn’t like it was in person
Like indecent exposure or flashing that happens in person, cyber flashing is often upsetting and scary for victims and survivors, and can make them feel unsafe. For some people, it can have a long-term impact on their well-being. If we want to try and stop these things from happening, we need to do a number of things.
First of all, these “jokes” will decrease when we people stop viewing them as jokes. We also need to expand our definition of sexual assault. For too long it was mistakenly viewed as “was there penetration?”
It also includes unwanted touch. It also includes watching someone against their wishes and forcing someone to watch the abuser against the victim’s wishes. It can also include various types of language and discussion.
The key is whether legal consent was granted. (I say the term “legal consent” because there might be times when the victim is not yet of the age where they can grant consent)
The online world may be virtual, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Real world crimes are being committed in the online world, and the consequences are very real and very sad.
But what is even more sad than seeing the abuse happen, is watching those protect and enable the abuser simply due to their own ignorance.
Yisroel Picker is a social worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.
To speak with Yisroel about presenting at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at email@example.com