Bridgend, South Wales, UK – As a young woman, I am horrified and hurt by the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault in my country.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, 20 percent of women and 4% of men in England and Wales have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16.
Now think about how many female and male victims you know. I can guarantee that your answer doesn’t nearly equate to the number of victims there really are.
Perhaps this is where the problem lies. Not only does UK society breed a culture of sexual assault, it also promotes a culture of silence.
People are afraid to speak up about their experiences of sexual assault, which leads to a lack of understanding and a lack of support for the victim.
We, as a society, must do better to create a culture where reporting experiences of sexual assault does not result in feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt for the victims.
Women are less likely to report sexual assault to the police because society tends to blame victims – especially female victims – and our sexist cultural beliefs suggest that sexual assault is the victim’s fault or that anyone who gets raped ‘deserved it’ or ‘asked for it.’
While none of these are true, and victims should not be assaulted in any way, there is still a lack of understanding when it comes to victims speaking up about sexual assault.
There is a dangerous lack of faith in the UK criminal justice system to properly punish the perpetrator, so there needs to be alternate ways for victims to speak up about their experiences and receive the support that they so desperately need.
That’s why, after learning about the problem, I’ve decided to do what I can to make things a little better. I’m now in training to be a virtual support worker. Eventually I’ll be bolstering victims and survivors who reach out for help over social media.
I hope one day there will no longer be the need for such roles, and young women like me won’t grow up scared about what might happen to them.
Holly Hostettler-Davies is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She wrote this commentary.
Chuying Huo is a Senior Reporter and Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International. She made the illustration.
This article is part of the No one is safe project about sexual assault around the world. It is being published in five parts of six article each on Mondays and Thursday, beginning Nov. 29, 2021. For links to the published project, click below.