We Need to Talk About Sexual Assault

One in five women will experience some form of sexual assault or rape in their lifetime, but those are only the reported cases - it's thought only 15% of victims report their crime to the police. These figures terrify me, and this is why I started the One in Five project.

Words by Grace Jackson

Reader discretion is advised as this essay includes references to sexual violence which some readers may find triggering.

I was raped at a bus stop in London in July 2014. I didn’t tell anyone but my boyfriend at the time, he responded: “What did you do to make that happen?” After that comment, I just shut down. I stopped feeling safe and became really insecure about being anywhere other than inside my home. I have always said that I like to see the good in everyone, I always try and see the bright side of life, but now, I automatically assume the negative. 

I feel lucky that I have my work, my photography to use as a coping mechanism and a healing tool for myself. After it happened, I started to write my feelings down in a diary. Some days, I was so angry I wanted to burn it. Other days I would feel so sorry for myself I’d just cry myself to sleep, questioning why did this have to happen?  Although, some days it felt good to leave my thoughts in a book, a place where I could have full control. It felt good to feel some strength again. In the end, I reported it to the police. However, they made me feel like I was lying; “If this happened why did you wait so long to tell us?” I was later referred to a specialist sexual assault and rape clinic to receive therapy. Two years later, I am still waiting for them to get back to me to have the treatment. I was frustrated at how this could happen. 

After a while, the only thing that kept me sane was maybe I just fell through the cracks; perhaps this is a unique situation, they wouldn’t treat victims like this. I must be an unusual case. We see on the news how when people come together they can get justice after years of abuse. It wasn’t until a close friend experienced something similar; she did everything I didn’t. She went to the police within three days; she had proof she had evidence, they arrested him. I had faith; I had hope again. However, the case was dropped from a lack of evidence of whether there was consent or not. There was no other emotion I felt nothing more than pure anger. I accept that I didn’t follow the correct procedure to get justice, it would be hard, but she did, and still, she was made to feel like it was her fault, that she led him on. After sitting in Costa and her explaining everything, I knew something had to change; I knew I couldn’t sit back anymore. 

As a victim of rape, you feel your voice is taken away, it takes so much courage to just even just use the word ‘rape’.

As a victim of rape, you feel your voice is taken away, it takes so much courage to just even just use the word ‘rape’. It takes so much courage to say I was raped. You feel like you had just run an emotional marathon just to say that because we weren’t listened to when it happened. ‘No’ wasn’t enough for someone to stop, our body language wasn’t enough to stop we then face people’s criticism of well “Was it night time?” “What were you wearing?” “Were you drunk?” I still don’t understand why these are the first things that come out of peoples mouths, but they are, it’s like everyone automatically thinks we could stop it, not the perpetrator. 

I want to give this control back to victims, I want them to feel like they do have control of their body, that they have control of their voice, I want to give them their voice back. I want them to feel like they can say what they want and not be scared anymore. The images are taken by the victim using a self-release shutter, and they are given a diary to explain what happened, what they’ve been through and how it has affected them going forward. It is so important to me because I am scared of the society I am growing old in, I am afraid for those numbers to rise.  

We don’t often speak about consent; it baffles me. Why are we not raising our children to understand that if someone is not enjoying/actively participating in having sex, they are NOT consenting? If someone is not physically able to consent, they are NOT consenting? Why are we happy to teach our children how to put a condom on but not know what consent is? Shouldn’t we teach children about consent before contraception? 

Why are we allowing our children to think that if someone grabs your junk in a pub that ‘they are just a perv’? No, they are assaulting you. It’s NOT ok, it is criminal, and by saying nothing, you are saying to that person it’s okay to do it again and again. Why is it okay for Theresa May to back up an MP who said: “Women’s promiscuity was relevant in determining whether she had consented to sex in rape cases”? How can anyone get away with saying that without letting anyone read the news and think that it is ok? How can someone’s promiscuity have anything to do whether they had consented or not? 

One in Five is about raising awareness for what is really going on, how our justice system is failing rape victims, but also how people react to rape and sexual assault. I want to create a discussion that leads to education. I hope in 10 years; these numbers come down. If you say nothing you are complicit in what is happening in our society, so let’s use our voices to change the world and our future. Live in a society we want to be a part of, one we are proud of.

If you would like to be involved the project or have a story to share, please get in contact info@gracejackson.co.uk you can also keep up to date with the project by following Grace on Instagram @gracerosejackson