It is much more broad and far-reaching than many people realize.
Victim Blaming: The act of insinuating that the victim of a crime is at fault for the crime. This is seen extremely often in rape cases. The victim is blamed for their own rape. In other words, society may accuse them of wearing “suggestive clothes”, drinking “excessively or irresponsibly”, giving “suggestive eye contact”, or acting “suggestively”, claiming that the victim caused the rape to happen because of “poor decisions” or “irresponsible/slutty behavior”.
Victim Shaming: When victim blaming goes a step further. Outside of blaming a victim for the crime committed against them, people may begin to bully the victim for the crime. They may call the victim derogatory names, threaten them for coming forward, gang up on them on the internet, slander them, attack them verbally and physically, and taunt them endlessly.
Both victim blaming and victim shaming seem to be a current trend in our society. I’m not sure if these situations are just now coming to light in the masses, or if it was always going on. Something tells me it’s been happening for a very long time.
When I was sitting in the police cruiser on the night of my attack the police were grilling me to tell them about what happened and draw up a formal charge. I told them that I did not want to press any charges, and that I just wanted to go home. They acted like they had no idea why I would not want to press charges, but I quickly enlightened them (keep in mind this was much before the Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and other related cases came into the light). I told them that I knew what people would say of me, that they would call me a slut, say I was asking for it, and I would just be the slut in the green dress. They tried to assure me that no one would think that about me, and though I knew that what they were saying was not true, I reluctantly gave my statement and spent the longest 2 hours of my life waiting in the police cruiser.
The police pretty much shamed me for not wanting to come forward, but I think people can see why at this point in time. Jane Doe and Rehtaeh Parsons endured endless bullying from their peers and society. The process of reporting is traumatic enough without rape culture being at a height and extremely public. The police tried to convince me by saying, “Don’t you want to stop him from doing this to anyone else?” If you say anything other than yes you look like a monster, and if you say yes you are damned for life for reporting. No wonder barely any women want to report. People always like to look down on women for not reporting, but I fully understand why they do not want to.
I want to change this society, but I can’t do it alone. We all have to work together to beat it.
A story on a man who hid behind a uniform of what should have signified safety rather than horror:
These people are dangerous. Especially when put into any position with power and prestige. They are predators. They hide behind uniforms. They violate every position you should be able to trust – they want your trust. This is why it is so despicable. These men become police, pastors, join the army, become teachers or coaches. Like hawks they loom. Rape culture will protect them. They build up their appearances to the community in order to invalidate any claims someone may make against them. The media may protect them, build them up, sympathize with them. These men are manipulative predators putting on a fake face and false sense of security. Many times they will build up a sense of trust within select victims and strike when the victim is most vulnerable. Is it possible they seek out a specific type of person? A personality type? Can they sense what someone has gone through in their past? I believe that they can read people. They can determine if someone has been a victim. They can read you if you let them. They can tell just by looking at you if you have given in to that victim mentality. Yet this is no reason for women to live in fear. Always tell yourself you are strong. Believe it, exude it. You ARE strong. You are not a victim, you are a survivor. Though that can sound cheesy, it is true. You made it through whatever you have been through in life and you can show the world who you really are-that you can truly prevail through anything. Be free.
Here is a postcard that was on PostSecret this Sunday. I know it is hard for many people to understand how/why someone would blame themselves for their own rape. The best way to understand is to ask. They may feel ashamed or as if they did something to cause the person to think that it was okay to take advantage. They may also feel as if they made poor decisions or that they could have prevented the rape. I am still struggling with this, and I know it can be a comfort to know that people understand you, that they hear you, rather than trying to give you advice from a perspective that does not understand. We are never at fault – THEY should have known better, should have made better decisions, should have prevented themselves from taking advantage, should have been respectful, should have been better.
This gets a little rough, but it is important for people to see what can happen when a fun night turns into a nightmare. The point is that many sexual assaults could be prevented if people were more observant or went with their gut feelings. If you see a girl who has clearly had too much to drink with someone who seems to be force feeding her more drinks and taking her somewhere she may not want to go, speak up for her. It is better to be wrong and offend someone than to be right and a girl ends up assaulted. Alcohol IS a date rape drug. You can be totally compromised and debilitated by alcohol alone. I consider it rape if a man takes advantage of a woman who is too intoxicated to give consent. Informed consent is key. Their is no honor in taking advantage, that is called being a coward. Again, you could prevent this from happening. Speak up if something is telling you to speak up. Make yourself heard and stand up for what is right.
Rape culture is when the victim of the crime is blamed, demonized, and possibly threatened for speaking up. The media will downplay the victim, if the victim is mentioned at all, and sympathize with the rapist. This usually occurs when the rapist is someone who is famous, powerful, a pillar of society, or the “All-American male” (high school football players, someone in the armed forces, involved with a fraternity, etc). The media will downplay the crime and play up the prestige of the guilty parties. They may talk about the sudden loss of their bright futures, or in the case of someone in the military, claim them to be an “American hero”.
Sometimes it is difficult for family members and friends to understand why a victim may not speak up for a crime, and let’s be honest, people look at you with a weird/judgmental grimace on their face if you say that you don’t want to report or that you don’t want to go to counseling. While I fully support women speaking up for themselves, and strongly believe that they should report the crime, I am the first to admit that I was a woman who did not want to report. Looking at the above chart, one can begin to grasp why. Many rapists will not even go to court. When I was going through the beginning processes of reporting the crime I was made to realize how daunting the process would be. The detective I spoke with said that the process can take at least 3-5 years, and that is if the District Attorney decides that your case is even worth going to trial over. Then even if the case does make it to court the rapist is often sympathized with rather than the victim. I was afraid to go to court because, frankly, I knew I would be treated like Jane Doe from the Steubenville case. Though her case came after I reported, using the case as an example has helped my family and friends understand my hesitation with reporting or carrying on with the case. Rape culture. That is why women do not want to report the crime-not to mention your raw emotions and most private life experiences are put on display for the world to see. The rapists are made to look as if they are heroes for withstanding trial. The real heroes here are the women who are brave enough to report, or even consider it, because, unfortunately, they will be the ones enduring hell on earth-accusations, threats, name-calling, shaming, court. If you made it out, you are the hero. You’re my hero, because I have barely been brave enough to report. I am here to tell you that if you do not want to report, or you are afraid to report, you are not weird and there is nothing wrong with you. You are not any less of the one who was forced to be a victim. The rapist/abuser is at fault. Always. You are never at fault. Even if you danced around naked you are not asking for it. You should be respected; you have value. Do not let yourself be defined by being the victim. Do not let anyone judge you for acting differently than what society portrays how a rape “victim” should behave. Do not let society force you to view yourself in any way other than beautiful.