Victim blame? For shame…

Ellen Inggrid Dengah-Staff Writer

Just to be clear, I have never been sexually assaulted. Although, now I wonder if this is true because so many girls my age have been, as if it is a milestone.

I was 14 when one of my best friends told me that she was sexually assaulted. She did not use the proper term when she described it, of course, but looking back, it aligns with one of the definitions of sexual assault that RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) has on their website. Readers, I think you should check out that website sometime, because even though some of its content seems like no-brainer information, sexual assault still happens and nobody knows how to prevent it when it’s coming or how to handle it when it has happened.

For example, one of the listed forms of sexual assault that is on the website is defined as “fondling or unwanted sexual touching.” Now, how do you know if someone wants to be fondled or not? This is one of the muddiest topics I’ve encountered regarding sexual assault, especially when romantic relationships are involved. This question of whether the victim wanted to be assaulted or not is difficult because even though some answers can be as clear as, “No, because he or she said ‘no,’” most times, the answers are highly situational. And when victims come forward to share the situation they were in, their guilt and shame are often reinforced by other people who – intentionally or unintentionally – suggest that the victim helped the assaulter in the act.

I know it seems silly; nobody wants to be assaulted, let alone help it happen. But questions like “Did you lead him on?” or “What were you wearing?” suggest that, just maybe, the women being addressed actually wanted to be assaulted. These questions, in turn, invalidate the fact that there has been an unwanted sexual interaction.

And yes, sexual interaction can be hard to define. But in spite of its semantic meaning, this bias to “defend” the assaulter by blaming the victim is ridiculously engrained in the way we live, engrained to a point that normalizes sexual abuse. “Grab them by the pussy” and “Locker-room talk” are tiny samples of how our common conscience is awfully biased toward the assaulters, who are often men in power. And let’s face it: sexual assault is an abuse of power, and it is hard to convict someone in power, especially when most of the aftermath of sexual assault cannot be seen and is often difficult to prove. Maybe if sexual assault resulted in victims losing a limb as opposed to these individuals instead losing something unseen – their dignity and self-respect – more people would pay closer attention. But I doubt it. We ignore instances of extreme injustices all the time.

But at least for now, you, readers, can’t hide behind your ignorance whenever you try to blame the victim. I’m not saying that sexual assault victims aren’t human beings who aren’t fault for anything; I’m saying that their fault does not lie in a lack of power over their own body. A 6-year-old girl is easier to harm sexually in comparison to, for example, a 50-year-old man, but this does not excuse the abuse toward the 6-year-old girl. It is easier to emotionally manipulate your significant other than it is to do something sexually they don’t want to do. The fact that they did it even though they did not want to further proves the abuse of power.

I know that sexual assault is always more complicated and grayer than I conveyed in this article. And I think sexual assaulters need to heal just as much as their victims. But sending assaulters to heal in a “rehabilitation prison” is as much of a joke as this victim-blaming logic. I don’t have all of the answers, but these are my thoughts.

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