It Can’t Happen to Me

“Why didn’t she leave him before that happened?”

“What did she expect being dressed like that?”

“Wellll . . . if she hadn’t been drinking . . .”

Sometimes, even for those vehemently opposed to Rape Culture, the thoughts can still sneak in. It’s a “culture” after all. Our early training and constant exposure to cultural messages can make those thoughts insidious. I think part of the reason this happens is due to the subject matter itself. It’s highly emotional nature makes it hard to focus on for very long with any level of real compassion: People suffer. It hurts us, and we know it. And besides — “What can I do about it anyway?” Or — “I’m a guy and I’d NEVER do XYZ (but I did have this thought once . . .)”

It’s painful to try holding conflicting ideas for any length of time. So our brains come to the rescue! They say, “Denial! Yes! THAT works.” Denial protects us (at least partially) from the pain of cognitive dissonance. And what that denial might look like is this: The brain starts putting rape and abuse victims into boxes we tape shut and label “can’t happen to me or my friends or my daughter because . . .”

  • We’re not poor . . . like them
  • We’re educated . . . unlike them
  • We’d never sell our story to a tabloid
  • That doesn’t happen HERE in our community (school, church, organization, etc.) . . .
  • Our country is far more evolved . . .
  • We TALK to our kids about these things . . .

. . . and just what WAS she thinking going out dressed like that?!?! Boom. There it is.

This happens subconsciously and very, very fast. Of course most people don’t really believe the quotes at the beginning. But just maybe they’re sneaking in because it’s easier than facing the reality head on.

Because the sad reality is that abuse, both physical and emotional, happens at all levels society. It happens to women, it happens to men, and it happens to children and teens in every country and at every economic level and has since the beginning of time. It happens from spouses, from significant others, from unknown assailants, and from family members. Children who were parented well and those who were not. There is no single class of person that is truly safe. We need to open our eyes. Start slowly and work up to it if you have to. Be kind to yourself.

Because denial is dangerous and one of the biggest factors contributing to the repeating pattern of abuse, rape, gaslighting, and emotional torture that has gone on since the beginning of time.

We can change this. It’s on us.

Further Reading

FBoM The Novel

Memorial Page to abuse survivors on my website

True Stories of Domestic Violence from all walks of life

Articles on Victim Blaming, Denial, Cognitive Dissonance, and Rape Culture.

Go deeper on the topics of rape culture, and how our brains come up with some of the things they do, seemingly against our will. All book links can be found on this page.


by Malcolm Gladwell
In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.

Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me

by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
When we make mistakes, cling to outdated attitudes, or mistreat other people, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so, unconsciously, we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right — a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong. Backed by years of research, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-justification — how it works, the damage it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

Asking for It

by Kate Harding
In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with an in-your-face voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. Drawing on real-world examples of what feminists call “rape culture” — from politicos’ revealing gaffes to institutional failures in higher education and the military — Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.

Originally published at