Yesterday, April 3, was International Day Against Victim Blaming. Ironically, I stumbled upon this video on YouTube by Laci Green which addressed some of the things that happened in the Steubenville Ohio rape case.
When I saw the video I was delighted! What really rang true with me was around 4 minutes in when she talked about slut shaming and victim blaming. Her words couldn’t have been more true. Although slut shaming is as important, victim blaming is going to be the main focus of this post because IT DRIVES ME AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO HAS BEEN A VICTIM OF A CRIME, ACCIDENT, OR ABUSE NUTS!
Before we get into exactly what victim blaming is and why it’s a big deal, I want to share a story with you guys. *The name and relationship of the person involved has been changed to conceal identity.
This happened shortly after I was assaulted.
About a month or so after the assault, I was starting to become unglued. Living on my own, not in such a close proximity to my friends and even further from my family after it happened was starting to take a toll. I was scared and panicked all the time. I could barely sleep.
I was having one of those nights where I just couldn’t fall asleep. My boyfriend at the time wanted to stay on the phone with me until I was sleepy, but it was really late and I didn’t want him up all night because of me. So I lied and said I was going to sleep. It was getting to the point where there were hardly any good shows on TV but I saw Cold Case was on and decided to watch that.
I was almost asleep when my phone started vibrating. To my surprise it was *Anne. Anne had found out about my desire to come home. She said that before she would offer any help with this she wanted me to tell her what happened. I didn’t want to. I hated saying the word “rape” let alone describing what happened.
I hesitated. She started to barrage me. “Were you raped!? Were you raped!?” I didn’t want to stay there alone anymore so I just said yes. Then the barrage of questions and blame gaming began. What happened? What was I wearing? Was I drinking? Was I flirting? Did I know him?
By the time she was finished with me I was in tears and feeling even worse about myself. I didn’t fall asleep that night and I never quite felt the same about her since.
What Is Victim Blaming?
Victim blaming is when someone blames the victim of abuse, a crime or an accident for what happened. This often occurs with victims of abuse or sexual assault, but as mentioned before it can happen to anyone who has been a victim of anything.
Why Do People Blame the Victim in the First Place? There’s a couple of reasons for this. People blame the victim as a way to distance themselves from what happened. By making the victim different from yourself, you deny that the chances of the same thing happening to you are slim to none. Another reason people victim blame is because they may actually believe that what happen to the victim is really their fault.
What Does It Look Like?
“That’s what happens when you get blackout drunk. She should have known better.”
“It’s a shame that he got robbed, but what did he expect walking through that neighborhood at night wearing that expensive chain.”
“She knew he was in a bad mood. He wouldn’t have hit her if she didn’t bother him.”
“Maybe those kids would have stopped bullying him if he stopped flirting with other boys and dressing like a girl.”
“That girl slept with everyone. IT was only a matter of time before she caught AIDs.”
What’s the Big Deal?
Victim blaming is a big deal because it deters people from reporting whatever crime occurred. It also keeps the victim from opening up to others about what happened to them. In addition to this, victim blaming also reinforces the message that he or she is completely responsible for what happened and it was his or her duty to prevent what happened. This is not the case.
Victim blaming also sends a message to the abuser that he or she doesn’t need to be accountable for their actions. It sends a message that it’s okay to do the things they have done and that they don’t have to be accountable for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Why Victim Blaming is Stupid
Have you ever noticed that the line of questioning when it comes to sexual assault or abuse are quite different from the questions asked of a victim of robbery or another crime? Here’s a fake scenario for you.
“Mr. Reynolds, you say someone looted your house?”
“Well what happened?”
“Well sir, I had a few friends over and we were watching the basketball game. We ran out of beer and pizza and since I was the most sober I went out to get it. When I came back they were gone and so were my things.”
“How long have you known these guys?”
“A couple of weeks. We’re on same baseball team.”
“So you don’t know these guys well?”
“Well…no not really.”
“So you invited people you don’t really know well over your house?”
“Yeah, yeah I guess that’s right.”
“And you left them alone.”
“Yeah, it was only for a few minutes. I thought I could trust them.”
“Do you let your friends borrow your things?”
“From time to time.”
“So how do I know Mr. Reynolds you didn’t let them borrow your stuff and are now trying to get them in trouble?”
“Why would I-“
“Nevermind. You say a plasma TV, a laptop, a stereo, an iPod, and cash were stolen right?”
“Those are nice things. “
“Yeah they are.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you Mr. Reynolds, but maybe in the future you’ll use better judgement. You left people you don’t know well in your house alone with all your nice things. It was like you were just asking them to rob you.”
Does that make sense to anyone? No? Oh okay. Well it doesn’t make sense when you say the same thing to victims of abuse and sexual assault either!
If you’re interested in learning how to fight victim blaming, read this article! The more we know about victim blaming and talk about it the sooner it will stop!