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Victim Blaming, Slut Shaming and Rape Culture

Victim Blaming, Slut Shaming and Rape Culture
victim blaming

I’m so emotionally exhausted by victim blaming, slut shaming and the relentlessness of rape culture.

They’re constant, and everywhere. It’s perpetuated by men and women, mothers and father, even police. It’s in our media, it’s in our culture, it’s in our language. It’s in how we think about ourselves and how we look at other people.

And it’s exhausting.

We’re so soaked in this attitude towards women and sex and violence that people honestly deny that rape culture exists, or that what they are doing while they are doing it is victim blaming.

“I’m not victim blaming, but….”

Victim Blaming

I get the temptation to victim blame. As a woman and a mother I get that when we blame a victim we feel a little bit safer. Because if it’s the victim’s fault then all we have to do is make different choices and we will be safe from harm.

The horrifying reality is no matter how much I’ve had to drink, or what I’m wearing, or if I have headphones on while I’m walking, if a man decides to rape me he can. He could overpower me. Most men would be physically stronger than I am, and I’m not even sure how much of a fight I’d be able to put up.

It’s easy enough to suggest women need self defense courses, but I was sexually assaulted – repeatedly – in a nightclub with a group of friends and I never even saw who did it. You can’t always fight someone off. I was dancing and someone kept putting their hand up my dress and grabbing at my underwear, but when I’d turn around there was a line of men disappearing into the crowd. They did it over and over. Like a pack of sharks circling. It was predatory and planned. And sure, if I wasn’t wearing a dress it wouldn’t have happened, but I’m sure they’d have done it to the person next to me.

We’re Not Safer

Another form of victim blaming is suggesting women shouldn’t walk alone, we should be accompanied by someone at all times – but given that women are nearly 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they know (most likely a current, or former, partner). We are statistically safer alone than with a man we know and trust. 

In fact 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime over the age of 15. It cannot possibly be that 1 in 5 women in Australia are doing something that invites assault. 

Holding Girls Accountable For Boy’s Actions

Another example of victim blaming is regarding the pornography ring that targeted teenage girls. So many people blamed the girls involved, because some of the photos were taken by the girls themselves. The attitude was that if they never took the photos in the first place, none of this would have happened.

A girl sending a photo to a boy is not consenting for that photo to be distributed to his friends. Just like if a boy asks a girl back to his house to have sex, and she consents, and they get to his room and a group of his friends are there to attack her, while technically if she never consented to go back to his room in the first place it would have never happened, it is unfathomable that anyone would suggest that it’s her fault.

Which is exactly what people are doing with regards to these photos.

Telling girls this is just what happens when you take photos of yourself is disgusting, because frankly I expect a whole heck of a lot more from boys than to accept that it is inevitable that they will be sexual predators.

We need to be telling boys in front of the girls that taking, collecting and sharing images of girls bodies without consent is a crime and is never okay. Rather than telling the girls in front of the boys that this is just what you can expect boys to do.

Slut Shaming

The other problem we have as a culture is we are so deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a woman owning her own sexuality, and wanting to have sex. There are so many words used to describe a woman who enjoys sex – slut, tramp, whore, ho, tart, trollop, promiscuous, wanton, loose, hussy, floozy… it goes on.

Slut shaming, like victim blaming, makes people feel a little better – a little safer – because then they can imagine that it’s not just the when, where and how that causes rape, it’s who. If they imagine that it only happens to certain types of girls and women, then they can feel it would never happen to them.

I absorbed this message as a young teenager, I was 13 or 14 and I was friends with a girl who told me she had been raped and I’m so utterly ashamed to admit that I distanced myself from her after that. I looked at how she interacted with boys and the fact that she appeared to be sexually active and thought she must have done something to invite it.

Rape Culture

All of this is part of rape culture. Rape culture is when women are blamed for being attacked and male violence is treated as normal and acceptable.

Anyone who doesn’t believe in rape culture clearly has never read the news. I cannot count the number of times I’ve read about offenders being given light – or even no – jail sentences because “Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid’s life.”  or “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,”

I know two women who’ve gone to the police, gone through the horror of court where their own sexual history was brought up in the process and when the men who attack them were found guilty nothing happened.

Both of those men went on to reoffend.

This is giving men permission to rape without consequence, because the impact on their life is more important than the impact on their victims.

When you see violence against women reported in the news how many times have police officers made a formal statement along the lines of:  the assault was “an unfortunate reminder for people to avoid walking alone.” or “I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn’t be alone in parks.”

We need change

Victim blaming doesn’t work. Telling women to modify our behaviour doesn’t prevent rape.

What we need is change, big change, in how rape is discussed, reported, and punished.

Could you imagine if instead of the policeman standing in front of the press saying “Let this be a warning to women.” and instead say “Let this be a warning to men. If you do this then we will hunt you down. We will find you. And you will be punished to the full extent of the law.” Imagine if they say this each and every time rape is reported.

Parents need to stop telling their daughters – in front of their sons – “If you wear that you’ll give the boys the wrong impression”.

Stop dismissing violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour as “boys will be boys”.

Start talking to both girls and boys about consent. What it means and how it works. Start talking about it from the time they can understand that their body is their own, and nobody is allowed to touch it without their permission.

And stop perpetuating rape culture by victim blaming. Don’t do it. Not ever. Because one day you might be that 1 in 5 – and it won’t be your fault.

 

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.

She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.

She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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6 comments

  1. Yasssss! There needs to be a massive paradigm shift and as parents, we are uniquely placed to start that process.

  2. BRAVO. Brilliant post. Spot on analogy about the guy inviting the girl back to his room only for all his friends to be there. Nailed it. Yes. Fist pump. (Etc.)

  3. Melissa Sorini

    Let’s all move to an island together. That’s all I’ve got…. :/

  4. I fear for the world my daughter has to grow up in. Thank you for raising awareness about this important issue

  5. Mummy Muckups (Anna)

    Absolutely so so much to take in. I like that you accept that even as women we are guilty of this. When we step back and consider our thoughts and behaviour, we can see where we have wronged, but we have been raised in a particular mindset. No excuses. I must change this for both my son and daughter.

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