HomefeminismSuicide, Sexual Assault and Special Needs – What’s the Connection?

Yesterday, I came across this post about how suicide is now the number one cause of death for teenage girls – worldwide.

Courtesy of Genta Mochizawa

I’ll repeat that. Suicide is the number one cause of death for teenage girls – WORLDWIDE.

Then, I came across this article about how 1 in 5 female students are victims of sexual assault in college, and 1 in 20 men have the same experience. Like the senator who’s trying to bring about change, these victims are often blamed for the assault and their attacker usually faces no punishment.

There are some powerful connections between these issues, and they parallel closely with the problems faced by the different learners amongst us.

  • The victimized are blamed for what they can’t help.
  • When they ask for help, they’re minimized or accused of wanting some sort of advantage.
  • Their mental health is deemed less important than everyone else’s.

Everyone can agree that these are serious issues, and they’re deeply ingrained with cultures around the world. They impact every area of our lives, even though most people don’t seem to see that.

Strength vs Weakness
Part of it is the idea of strength being so prized over weakness. Victims of sexual assault and people with disabilities are both seen as being weak or drains on society by the general culture. Their strengths are overlooked in favor of their struggles.

Unless someone recovers from their trauma to a high enough degree to be “successful” by societal standards, their overall worth is diminished. I know that’s wrong, and most of my regular readers know that’s wrong, but that doesn’t change the problem at hand.

In reality, these folks have a huge amount of strength which goes unrecognized.

Look Deeper
Another part is how superficially the issues are addressed. Suicide is mourned intensely, but the motives behind it are ignored. There’s anger when discussing how poorly special needs folks are treated, but the cultural background behind that treatment is shoved under the rug.

When you spend your life being told you’re “less than” everyone else, that lesson sinks in. When you’re thrust into situations like the uncertainty of under/un-employment, the never-ending fight for accommodation and understanding or being assaulted with little to no aftercare, the only measure of control you have over your life is whether or not to end it.

The key to these issues is that they never happen in a vacuum, but they’re treated as if they do. We need to take a hard look at the cultural and psychological influences on why they happen. As we do that, we must change our attitudes towards them and seek solutions to the problems surrounding them.

As stunning and heartbreaking as these situations are, they scream one thing at me: We must change for the better, and we must do it now.

(For those who are wondering, the leading cause of death for teenage boys is “road injuries”. Suicide is still in the top five for them, though, at number three.)

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