Confused? Baffled? Are you maybe wondering why on earth I want to stop denying people the ability to be victimized? Read on.
First, let me be clear: We need to stop Sexual Assault entirely, especially in our own country, our own backyard. I mean, come on! This is America, the leader of the free world. We are a modern society, not animals or savages. While I do not condone sexual assault on any level or in any society, the discussion becomes much more obtuse when you discuss third world societies, their lack of teachings and resultant lack of understanding or moral definition. So, at least for the sake of this argument, let’s focus on the rape culture in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
The truth is right there in front of us. We all see it when we turn on the news, open our favorite internet home page, listen to the radio, read a book or magazine article. Maybe you see an exposé link on your social media feed, or maybe, just maybe, a friend or loved one shares a piece of themselves with you and tells you of the assault they’ve endured.
What do you do? How do you respond? How does anyone respond? Usually, people change the channel, they scroll on or turn the page. For those who face it in person, they often change the subject or share some story that is not only entirely unrelated but somehow also trivializes the experience. Maybe you, the person reading this, is thinking, “Hey. Wait a minute. That’s not fair. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.” Fair enough. I’ll allow that, but in truth, if you don’t know what to say, if the subject makes you uncomfortable, then say nothing. Whatever you do, please, and this goes for all of us, please stop turning victims away.
Yep. that’s right. You heard me. It is the most common response when a victim comes forward. They’re turned away. But, why, you wonder. Because that’s how society works. When they don’t have an answer, they point the blame right back at the victim.
“I told you not to dress like that.” “You knew better than to go there.” “Were you drinking?” “Why were you alone?” “It’s a bad neighborhood.” “Did you lead them on?” “Are you sure?” “Who was it? Oh, you don’t know who it was?” “Are you lying?” “You are lying.” “Why would you say that?” “Don’t make crap up.” “You know you wanted it.” “What did you expect?” “It didn’t mean anything.” “It’s not like they really hurt you.” “It’s no big deal.” “So what? You got laid. What’s the problem?” “There was no penetration, it doesn’t count.” “It’s your own fault.” The list, is endless.
But none of those responses is appropriate. The truth is, unless the response is something helpful, like having them reach out to a therapist, or file a claim, by being a strong shoulder for them to lean on as they face their attacker in court, or something that helps them, we are only perpetuating the problem. If we focus on the cause, we are drawing out the attack. There is no, absolutely NO, cause for sexual assault. None.
If we blame the victim for something they did not do, if we aren’t addressing the crime that took place, we aren’t allowing these wonderful, brave and resilient people the ability to be a victim. Instead, because the issue is outside our own comfort zone, we force them into a corner where they’re left with self-doubt, anxiety, loneliness, despair, etc. By trivializing their experience or doubting the circumstances, we only make it worse. And what is worse than being raped, molested, or assaulted?
When you aren’t allowed the peace to be what you are: a victim.
When someone is shot, attacked, robbed, we get them justice. When someone is raped, we doubt them, we question their intent, we defend the attacker for fear of their reputation. And what of our victim’s reputation?
If they’re female, they become tramps, sluts, etc. If it’s a male, the slurs become even worse. And if they report it? They become prudes, liars, problematic people, or someone desperate for attention.
Sexual Assault needs to be addressed. But before we can truly do that, we have to allow the victims to be victimized. Until we allow such victimization, how the heck can we see the crime? How can we find better ways to police the assaults, keep better statistics, prosecute the attackers, create harsher sentences and remove these offenders from our streets if we, as a society, refuse to acknowledge it as a crime?
If you’ve been victimized, I’m sorry, but more importantly, I see you. I fight for you, and if we all stand strong, if we all move forward in society, your voices will be heard. You did nothing wrong. You deserved better, and one day? One day, we’ll get there. Until we do, stay strong.
~Jennifer L. Meacham