Speaking Out Against Victim-Blaming

This is way more rant-y than I would like it to be, but I wanted to post something. Training is tough and I am feeling a bit emotionally fatigued lately, but I promise regular blogging will be back soon. In addition, I’m still working on my first challenge to myself, to “raise awareness” for the causes I care about. This is a facet of that challenge…

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Going through the training to work within the field of Rape Crisis Counseling causes a person to see the world in a very different light. Things that, once, we’re merely troublesome in an uncomfortable way that you could never quite articulate become clear. For instance, gender stereotyping; I’ve always know it was wrong, but I’ve never been able to fully articulate why it bothered me on such a personal level, until now.

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We live in a society that helps rape and domestic violence to exist, whether we want to admit it or not. For starters, the gender norms that are perpetuated through the everyday stereotypes that we internalize (such as women are less capable of being self-sufficient, or men are supposed to be dominating and powerful) help to create a world where people believe that rape occurs because certain women are “asking for it.” If a woman is raped often it is assumed that she did something, wore something, said something, consented to something that made the rapist believe that what they did was acceptable.

The people who rape or abuse someone do so to feel powerful and important, in order to do this they must believe that their victim is worth less then them, a belief that can be derived in part from these damaging gender stereotypes that people in our society hold. If a society believes that women are supposed to be docile and compliant, and men are supposed to be uncontrollably sexual and strong beings… well, its easy to see how rape can become something that’s not viewed as such a big deal.

I want to live in a society  where people question WHY a person is compelled to hurt another innocent victim, rather than why a survivor was in a certain place, at a certain time… or even worse what they did to incite the rape. This line of thinking places the responsibility for the crime on the victim’s shoulders, rather than the rapist’s where it belongs. As much as I resolved not to write about Rihanna’s domestic assault, I believe it is necessary to mention here because of the reactions that have been bubbling out of the mass media. For instance, the Daily News recently wrote, concerning the fight that incited Chris Brown to abuse Rihanna, “It didn’t help that Rihanna grabbed the keys out of his rented Lamborghini and threw them down the street. She knew it would really infuriate Chris, and it worked.”

Rather than focus the blame on the actual perpetrator of the violence this article, and many others, look to the victim and her actions to try and deciper ‘what she did’ to incite the violence. Society has conditioned a great majority of us to point the blame at rape and domestic violence victims for wearing suggestive clothing, having a drink, walking alone at night, being sexually active, getting into an argument… we should live in a society where women and men can wear what they like, go out to a bar and drink, even walk alone down a street and not have to worry they will be raped and even worse, if they are raped, they will be blamed for that rape.

We should live in a society where two adults can argue without violence, and if violence does occur then the violent party is held responsible for their actions, instead of the innocent victim.

So, today I ask how can you and I help make that happen?

  1. Speak out against gender stereotyping in society; don’t let people believe women are inferior, or that men are uncontollable, or any other bullshit generalizations you hear people making… people are all different, the only thing that is reliably true about women and men is that women have vaginas and men have penises (and even this isn’t 100% accurate if you, like me, believe that transgendered women and men are just as much women and men as people who were biologically born into the gender they identify with.)
  2. Speak out against victim blaming; if a friend or an aqquaintance on campus confides in you (or someone you know) about a sexual assault, hear them out and be supportive. Don’t hold a microscope to their actions because, even if they did do something to incite the other perty, rape/domestic violence are never acceptable forms of “punisment”. Remember, there is nothing a person can do to “deserve” to be sexually assaulted. In addition, anyone can be sexually assaulted; it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, a virgin or a sex worker… if a person does not consent, and sexual activity is still forced upon them then a sexual assault has occured.
  3. Educate yourself and your friends about informed consent. Some basics: Consent is only present when sexual activity is coupled with a consistent enthusiastic YES; compliance does not mean consent. In addition, consenting to one sexual activity at one specific time does not imply any future consent, even for the same activity; consent must be gained every time one has sex/does something new with a partner. Finally, if a person is drunk they legally cannot consent to sex.

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