The answer is absolutely not.
The other day, a group of friends and I were discussing a rape situation and one of them used the phrase: “well, she is so stupid, why did she go out to dinner with him?” I sat there, completely stunned by her words.
After her statement, I started wondering why a privileged, educated, well-traveled 27-year-old female would instantly blame the victim and justify an act of rape?
I realized that maybe it is not entirely her fault. We have been raised in a culture where sexual violence is frequent and rape excused and normalized by society and media. Our society perpetrates a ‘rape culture’ within which women are taught to avoid getting raped instead of men being taught not to rape. This is outrageous and we all should be scandalized by it.
Victims are often seen as just as guilty as – or even more guilty than – abusers. I acknowledge here that men are also vulnerable to sexual abuse, but in this particular moment I am focusing on sexual violence against women.
FACT: Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault.
Sexual assault is a violent attack on an individual, not a spontaneous crime of sexual passion. No one ‘asks for’ or deserves this type of attack.
Apart from the social and mental implications of victim blaming on an individual, it also makes it harder for other victims to come forward and report their assaults.
This is a huge issue, and a great deal of victim blaming comes from friends and family. I urge you to think again before you contribute to one of the biggest challenges we face as women: justice for perpetrators.
Many of the things we hear or read about rape involves a stranger or a family member assaulting their victim. But what about when your partner is the one assaulting you? Rape within relationships and marriages is extremely common and victim blaming is even more prevalent – there’s a thought that ‘she must have done something wrong for him to act like that’. Between 10 and 14% of married women will be raped at some point during their marriages.
We are used to living in a society where a husband or boyfriend has the right to do anything. So why does society still blame victims? Maia Szalavitz explains a psychological reason: “The “just-world bias” happens because our brains crave predictability, and as such, we tend to blame victims of unfairness rather than reject the comforting worldview suggesting that good will be rewarded and evil punished.”
Personally, I am curious as to how most research seems to prefer the word “assault” or “violence” to “rape”. This is such an important issue, and it should be called by its name. A non-consensual sexual relation is rape, and I think that switching the words only makes the problem seem less prevalent, or less valid, than it is.
How can we all help to end ‘rape culture’?
- Always take a rape or sexual assault accusation seriously
- Never make assumptions
- If someone talks to you, support them to come forward
- Speak up when women’s bodies are objectified
- Speak your mind when someone jokes about touching or sex without consent
- Stop asking what the victim was wearing or whether she’d been drinking alcohol
- Bring this conversation to the table with the women and men in your lives
We need to help eliminate the belief that these conversations are too uncomfortable. Start speaking up.