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One of the Primary Root Causes of Sexual Violence is Oppression

We Will would like to note that while this article focuses primarily on the interaction between oppression and sexual violence, We Will recognizes that any individual from any walk of life can experience sexual assault and that every survivor's story and experience is valid regardless of which social group the survivor identifies with.


The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape wrote that "oppression in all its forms is among the root causes of sexual violence" (See the article about oppression here: https://pcar.org/about-sexual-violence/oppression-sexual-violence). According to many studies, historically oppressed groups experience a disproportionate amount of sexual violence. These groups include women, ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ individuals, children, those with disabilities, elders, imprisoned individuals, those experiencing poverty, and more.


It is understood that "people who commit sexual offenses often seek out potential victims who they perceive as easy to overpower and manipulate." (See The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Article). This oppression puts the individual in a vulnerable position, takes away from the survivor during and after an assault, prevents them from knowing what happened to them was abnormal or wrong, and much more.


Those who are oppressed often feel unseen, unheard, devalued, and silenced in many areas of life. This can lower an individual's ideas of their own self-worth and even cause them to believe that how they are treated is normal an acceptable. More importantly, society tells others that it is acceptable and normal to treat individuals in this group in a less-than-human way. This puts the oppressed individuals in extremely vulnerable positions and leads others to commit horrendous acts ranging anywhere from thinking of individuals in these groups as "other" to violent crimes including homicide.


Lydia Guy created the sexual violence continuum (see below) to explain how oppression devolves into extreme sexual violence.


While this continuum focuses primarily on sexism, the center of oppression can lead out through any of the related circles to lead to the same results. Sexual assault and rape are considered "predictable consequences" of oppression. ( See Lydia Guy's Re-visioning the Sexual Violence Continuum here: https://pcar.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdfs/re-visioning-the-sexual-violence-continuum.pdf). The following are We Will's adaptations of this continuum:


The mistreatment and persecution of any individual is wrong, and it is abhorrent that oppression so often leads to sexual misconduct and so many other misdeeds, affecting the lives of countless individuals.


It is not only the sexual assault itself which is problematic, but oppressed groups often experience a more difficult recovery as well. Studies have found that often, those in oppressed groups such as those listed above experience more severe side effects of sexual assault. For example, one study found that LGBTQ+ survivors are more likely to experience severe depression or attempt suicide following an assault than other survivors.


Additionally, those in oppressed groups often do not have access to resources necessary or the ability to comfortably seek help following an assault. For example, those in poverty have reduced access to psychologists and other individuals such as victim advocacy groups or support networks who may help them recover from their assault. Access to psychologist and other resources may also very easily be an issue for many LGBTQ+ individuals who do not have access to LGBTQ+ friendly resources or who may not have come out yet and describing their assault would out them.


Depending on which oppressed group an individual belongs to, they may even have a harder time reporting the assault, having others believe them and taking a report seriously, and even are more likely to be blamed for their assault. Social status should not contribute to a survivor's ability to seek help or to be believed, but because of oppression in today's society, this is a reality.


If we are to end sexual assault we must end oppression and marginalization of various social groups. There is not shame or blame on the individuals of these groups for their oppression. Rather, all blame belongs to the oppressors. There is not one individual group to blame for the persecution of individuals in these and other oppressed groups. Rather, society as a whole takes part in making the lives of these individuals more challenging. Therefore, we are in need of a societal change.


Currently in the forefront of societal concern is the Black Lives Matter movement and this month is LGBTQ+ Pride Month. We see a substantial call to action to end oppression of the individuals in these and other communities. Oppression will not stand. We Will enthusiastically joins in this call in stating that all deserve dignity and respect. By affording this respect to others, we will put an end to oppression and sexual violence.

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