I’ve been mulling over this post for a week now, and most of the waffling has been over the fact that posting here is public and much of my opinion on the subject of victim-blaming is grounded in the fact that I am a victim, have subjected myself to internal victim-blaming, and these are things I haven’t ever admitted publicly. In fact, I’ve only admitted them privately to very few people.
I think part of being the victim of anything, though–whether it be rape, emotional abuse, a disease, or anything else–is by not talking about it you allow it to carry far more weight on your life than whatever inflicted the violence on you deserves. You internalize more of the backlash from the event than is healthy.
The few times I’ve brought up my experiences to people, it was a very stressful decision. Actually admitting the truth took so much effort, so much thought, and every time the result was the same: quiet digestion of what I just said, and acceptance. Part of what makes admitting the truth so difficult is sifting through all of the potential responses I expect; you hope for what I’ve been fortunate to receive, but you fear much worse.
So in an effort to relieve a lot of the internalizing I’ve done and continue to do, I’m going to discuss my thoughts on rape apologizing and victim-blaming here. The first step is admitting that I’ve been raped. Three times, twice by the same person.
The most difficult part of dealing with it is first recognizing the fact that what happened was, in truth, rape. Because of the fact that our culture treats women as instigators of sexual violence and all men as perpetrators just waiting around to be incited by women that are “asking for it,”* my initial reaction to all of the cases of rape I’ve experienced was to blame myself–for not recognizing the potential the situation had for me to be raped, for not putting up enough of a fight in response to the attack, for essentially allowing it to happen. I convinced myself that in some way, shape, or form, I’d been one of those women “asking for it,” and how could it be rape if I was at least partly to blame?
It wasn’t until I had input on a breakdown of the things that have happened from a third party that I was able to realize that under no circumstances was I ever “asking” to be raped. First of all, the very essence of that sort of violence stems from the fact that it is unwanted–how can you be asking for something you vehemently do not want? And in response to my particular set of experiences, the following would have to be made Potential Victims’ Rules for Not Getting Yourself Raped:
- Do not fall asleep around your boyfriend. If you do, you’re asking him to rape you.
- Do not ever consent to doing anything with your boyfriend. If you do, you’re asking him to take it further, do things to which you are firmly saying “No!”, and then rape you.
- Do not ever go someplace alone with a male friend. If you do, he will suddenly and out-of-the-blue pin you down, lift your skirt, and rape you.
I think my anecdotes are perfect examples for refuting the logic that women can actively do things to prevent being raped. This concept is at the heart of victim-blaming; you can’t blame someone for having caused something if there was no way for them to prevent it. As soon as you can come up with supposed means of prevention, then if someone doesn’t follow those rules to a T, they must be to blame for what happened.
As I’ve read elsewhere, the only surefire way to not “get yourself raped” is to not be in the vicinity of rapists. And since last I checked, being a rapist doesn’t go hand-in-hand with having a neon sign above your head flashing “I AM A RAPIST” in big, bold letters for all the world to see, I don’t see how a potential victim is supposed to know they’re in the company of a rapist and subsequently take steps to avoid them.
The men who raped me were a) a boyfriend and b) an acquaintance-type friend; both relationships that have a certain degree of inherent trust. Implied is the simple fact that I am not expecting them to be rapists, and I am trusting them to not rape me. The only way I could possibly avoid the scenario of placing this level of trust in someone who is actually a rapist is to by default assume that every single man is a rapist, and I should never spend time around any of them.
I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that would be a pretty ridiculous and unfair attitude to have. However, this is what victim-blamers expect women to do: treat all men as though they are rapists, otherwise if you don’t, it’s your fault if you are raped by one.
My experiences clearly illustrate that skimpy clothes, alcohol, and hanging around with strangers have no real correlation with being raped, and directions for women to avoid those things or else accept the fact that they invited the attack are just abhorrent. Every time I was raped I was clothed head-to-toe (the skirt in the one instance was floor-length), completely sober (as were my rapists), and in the company of people I knew (in one case, a boyfriend I was dating for years). This is absolutely not an exception to the rule: most victims of rape are attacked under those same supposedly safe circumstances. And for all the times I have been scantily clad, drunk, and hanging around a bunch of strangers, I was never once the victim of even attempted rape.
The only person to blame for rape is a rapist. The only thing a victim can do to put themselves a risk for being raped is to be in the presence of a rapist. And since as I said, it is not mutually inclusive for someone to be a rapist and simultaneously conduct their lives while announcing that they are a rapist, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent getting raped. It doesn’t matter if a woman is running around the streets stark naked, drunk, and high, if she never comes across a rapist, she will not be raped. It doesn’t matter if a woman is dressed in full hijab, stone-cold sober, and never leaves her home, if a rapist is in the room with her, there’s a chance he might act on his intentions.
There is absolutely no excuse for claiming someone instigated a rape. There is no excuse for a man who commits rape. The victim was attacked, and the perpetrator is a rapist–plain and simple, end of story. All of the responsibility for the crime lays with the person who committed it, and people seriously need to get over themselves, stop telling women that things they do “invite” being raped, stop mitigating the crime by giving the men excuses for their dispicable behavior, and start telling men that they shouldn’t be rapists.
* Worth noting: I only refer to adult, male-on-female instances of rape here because that is all I have experienced and what gets the most attention in our culture. I recognize that men can be raped, women can be perpetrators, and not all victims are adults. It doesn’t matter the exact circumstances of the people involved, rape is rape, it is always a terrible crime, and no victim is ever to blame at all.