Why we MUST Fight Against Sexual Assault
Howard Zinn was a professor, historian, author and an activist for issues such as race, class and war. Zinn was a highly intelligent man and he once said, “You can not be neutral on a moving train.” And he is exactly right. When it comes to campaigning for social justice, there is no room for neutrality. That is why our fight for anti-trafficking is just as important as the fight against sexual assault. There is an inevitable link between human trafficking and sexual assault, and in this post we are unpacking and exploring the deeply rooted connection between the two, and how our society can help in this fight.
“You can not be neutral on a moving train.”
~ Howard Zinn
According to Freedom Network USA, human trafficking and sexual assault are both awful crimes done through power, control and abuse of another human. And, while they both can happen separately, trafficked persons are especially likely to be assaulted. Traffickers use sexual assault to control and assert power over trafficking victims regardless of the industry they are in. With that being said, there really is no specific profile for victims or perpetrators of sexual assault and human trafficking; however, marginalized communities such as migrants, minorities, LGBTQIA etc., are notably targeted more by traffickers and perpetrators of sexual assault.
Another thing to note, is that sexual assault does not only occur in the sex industry - it occurs in all parts of human trafficking, including servile marriages, and forced labor. Within the sex industry, many sexual assault cases are not reported because of the stigma that surrounds the industry. There is a complexity to this type of abuse because traffickers normally have some type of information or control over the victim. There are also the cultural and social stigmas that are affiliated with human trafficking and sexual assault that can make it difficult for the victim to come forward. This is especially true when it comes to victim blaming, which is still very common in both crimes. According to Freedom Network USA, victims can be blamed for a variety of things such as: immigration status, past sexual/criminal history, if they accepted money for the services, choice of clothing, relationship histories, alcohol or drug abuse or an aspect of the assault that was misjudged for consent.
In other forms of human trafficking, such as forced labor and servile marriages, sexual assault happens, as well. Traffickers use sex as a way to assert power, dominance and control over the trafficked persons. Similar to the sex industry, sexual assault is underreported in the workplace and forced marriages due to the horrifying circumstances that the victim may be in, prohibiting them to come forward.
The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, and as a society that is seeking justice, there are things that we can do to speak up and speak against sexual assault.
We can start by understanding that sexual assault occurs in all forms of human trafficking, even what may seem to be intimate partnerships. It is also important to understand the complexity of the dynamics between sexual assault and human trafficking. Once we can understand that, we will be able to develop a compassion for the sufferers and not fall into the victim-blaming mindset. It is easy to look at these situations as bystanders and question why the victim does not seek help from authorities or simply walk away. But knowing and understanding that there is so much more at stake than we can understand is what will allow people to feel safe in coming forward and speaking up.
When speaking with victims of sexual assault, Freedom Network USA encourages the use of a victim-centered approach. It is the best way to make these survivors feel safe and understood. A victim-centered approach promotes empowerment of the survivor and encourages them to rebuild autonomy. It creates a non-judgemental space where their decisions are respected and they have the support and services they need to cope with their trauma while they adjust to a new, and better life.
This fight against sexual assault is an important one that takes more than a few courageous voices. It requires us, as a society, to have unwavering compassion and understanding for the survivors and victims, it requires us to stand up and speak up, boldly, even when it isn’t convenient. And it requires us to not only believe in justice but practice it everyday by not remaining neutral in a situation where neutrality is dangerously harmful.
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About the Author
Olivia Kyles is a Junior at Northern Arizona University pursuing a degree in Marketing with a minor in Spanish. She finds her peace in helping others and is so excited to be working with Dressember helping to fight against modern day slavery. She loves to run, has a passion for animals and is obsessed with literature and movies based off of the roaring 20s!