Today in Egregious Discoveries About Humanity, a study has found that a big reason women rarely report sexual violence is because they view it as “normal.” The study, which will be published in Gender & Society, reviewed forensic interviews with 100 kids who may have been sexually assaulted. The interviews were conducted by the Children’s Advocacy Center, and the subjects’ ages ranged from 3-17.
The research team found that young women and girls often saw objectification, sexual harassment and abuse to be a normal part of life. Male privilege and a sense of female powerlessness, it seems, was seen by many interviewees as typical. One 13-year-old interview subject justified the fact that boys tried to inappropriately touch her at school because “they do it to everyone.”
The interviews also revealed that many young women were unlikely to name the sexual violence they experienced as actual assault unless it was the kind of rape that is most stereotyped — like a stranger cornering a woman in a dark alley. Other cases, such as assault by a friend or relative, were much less likely to be seen as abusive or inappropriate. Even worse, interviewees frequently felt they were to blame for the assaults they endured.
Essentially, sexual violence often goes unreported because victims either don’t recognize it for what it is, or believe it’s a normal occurrence because so many of their peers have experienced and internalized it. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this at all, but I’m really sad to hear this. It’s one thing for these dangerous ideas to be passed around as often as they are, but the fact that it’s been ingrained into the minds of so many kids is pretty devastating. As grownups, our society is supposed to protect vulnerable young people as best as we can, but it seems that we’re failing pretty epically so far.