Things that DON’T matter:
What she’s wearing
If she went home with him
If her hair was in a ponytail
If she was out late at night
If she was by herself
Things that DO matter:
The fact that most sexual assaults are not reported due to fear
The fact that many sexual assaults that are reported are handled incorrectly, if at all
The fact that 1 in 4 women are victims of sexual assault
The fact that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by those we know, though the media often has us fear only strangers
The fact that we blame the victim, when in reality it is NEVER their fault!
What is truly scary about our society is that we live in an environment where the first five statements are more often paid attention to than the last five. How often have we heard conversations about how, “Well, she shouldn’t have been doing (insert whatever here) what did she expect to happen?” Am I the only one who thinks, well, she might have expected to be treated as a human being with dignity free from fear of sexual assault?
I actually encountered this conversation this weekend, my roommate had some friends over and one of his female friends decided to go home with this guy. Needless to say the rest of the group, all males, berated her for going home with him and at length described how she was stupid/naïve to think that nothing was going to happen. My inner feminist reared her head in anger, and I had to explain that it doesn’t matter if she went home with him or not, the moment that she says no anything that happens after that is not her fault AT ALL. This statement was disgustingly met with the common excuse of she shouldn’t have put herself in that position anyway, and if something does happen then she’s the one who got herself there. Excuse me? This mentality is hurtful towards women for two reasons 1) if she had been a guy who left with a girl, they all would have been singing a different tune-congratulating his conquest, not questioning his virtue and 2) this victim blaming mentality helps to promote a rape culture that women are forced to confront every day.
For those of you who may not know, rape culture, according to Marshal University Women’s Center webpage, is “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.” The intense fear of sexual violence is apparent in women’s everyday actions. I had a professor once ask the men what they did to protect themselves from rape, the vast majority had no specific actions, the list for the women, however, was extensive from staying in groups to making one’s appearance more masculine when alone at night. This fear and need for precautions is laid on the shoulders of women, though they are not the one’s perpetuating the crimes.
Our culture teaches us how not to get raped, rather than teaching how not to rape. We tell women how to avoid sexual assault, how to stay safe, how to protect themselves, but in reality we are just telling women how to be afraid and to limit their actions. We teach our children that “no” really means “yes” that it doesn’t matter what is coming out of her mouth if her body is still there, don’t believe me re-watch this clip from Beauty and the Beast.
Not enough? How about the fact that one of the guys from this weekend said, “Well, even if a girl says no and we’re lying in bed, I’m still going to try something and if she slaps my hand away then I’ll believe she actually meant no.” WHAT? This mentality is what is guiding our society; I cannot be the only one who finds this repulsive.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get angry! It’s time to stop blaming the victim, stop discouraging victims from filing suits against their attackers. Time to hold those officers who take these claims accountable, making sure that they are doing all that they can to get these people off the streets and to take these cases seriously. It’s time we educate our children on how to have respectful sexual relationships, and teach how not to rape instead of how not to get raped. It is past the time that we should be able to say, “Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I like to wear short skirts. Yes, I walk home and live by myself. However, that is not an invitation for catcalls or other sexual assaults. Not a reason to be attacked at night. Fear of sexual assault should not be a limitation in my life. I am NEVER to blame!”
Marshall University. Women’s Center: Rape Culture. 2013. http://www.marshall.edu/wpmu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/