Why 14 women didn’t ‘just leave’ sexual situations

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It’s 2018, and the last few months have brought a lot of positive change to—or at least awareness of—the pervasiveness of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our culture. We’ve come a long way. People care. They’re listening. They are—often, at least—believing women.

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But there’s an insidious question that keeps coming up in comment sections and over dinner tables: “Why didn’t she just leave?” If a woman is in an uncomfortable sexual situation, shouldn’t she—in the age of empowered women—just take charge and walk out?

Usually we’d throw a bunch of stats and figures out, like that studies have found that women can experience temporary paralysis that prevents them from fighting back or screaming during sexual assault, or that 59% of sexual violence is committed by an acquaintance, making the situation all the more emotionally and mentally difficult to navigate.

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But instead of telling you why women “don’t just leave” during their assaults, harassments, and uncomfortable encounters, we’ll let these 14 women speak for themselves.

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1. “Because I was tired of fighting and was in denial of what was actually happening to me. I told myself that if I accepted it, if I went along with it, if I stopped saying ‘no,’ then I wasn’t actually being assaulted. Because you can’t assault someone who isn’t fighting back, right? I made myself believe that in the moment, despite how wrong it was.” —Chloe, 27

2. “Because sometimes ‘leaving’ doesn’t mean you actually get to leave the situation behind, because next time, the person might try to bully you, or slander you, or physically assault you for having said ‘no.’ It starts to feel like punishment when you’re forced to ‘leave’ a situation you had no hand in creating, and my predator wanted me to know that I couldn’t ‘just leave,’ no matter how many times I tried.” —Liz, 28

3. “Because he was my friend and we worked together. I thought I could talk it out and get through to him.” —Dana, 32

Lesbian couple arguing

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