This is a sensitive subject but hang in there. I promise it won’t get too graphic.
Victim blaming/shaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them.
A good example of this happens on social media pretty often. Recently a young lady tweeted her experience of having something slipped into her drink while out with friends. The shaming that was cast upon her was astounding. I can’t imagine what type of events have to take place for you to really and truly not let a victim be a victim. You can view those shaming tweets here.
Where does victim blaming come from? Probably from the very first time someone threw a stone and hid their hand. But in 1971 psychologist William Ryan coined the phrase in his book, Blaming The Victim. The book touched on “victim blaming” being an ideology that was used to justify racial injustice and racism against Black Americans. Basically, Black people should stop doing whatever they’re doing to make white people hate them. Somehow victim blaming has become a rapid fire go-to when people are sexually assaulted/harassed in any way. There’s always this immediate doubt. I know that there are times when people are falsely accused. I know there are times when a victim lies. Sometimes sex crimes can be difficult to prove. But to place the burden of proof on someone who says they were victimized is ridiculous. That makes sense to you?
If the story doesn’t sound believable enough, if the victim was wearing something “inappropriate”, if the victim was inebriated, if the victim was flirting, if the victim changed their mind “too late”, if the victim was alone, if the victim was in a club or bar, if the victim has a “promiscuous reputation”, if the victim has a history of lying or a host of other reasons they are often victim shamed. Why would anyone think this is okay? I could go into a long feminist monologue about patriarchy, male entitlement, male privilege and misogyny but I’m not going to. This isn’t just about women and rape, it’s about people who are violated, period. It’s about boys, girls, women and men. Children are victim shamed just like adults are.
I often hear the horror stories of people accusing their daughters of being “fast” or trying to “seduce” someone who violated them. And they don’t even bat an eyelash. There’s a trend that places the reasonable doubt in a playpen of subjectivity. Authority figures will play with a number of scenarios until the violator is seen as a victim of circumstance. That isn’t fair to the victim. And the shaming cuts so deep that a lot of people don’t tell anyone about the incident so the perpetrator gets off scott free anyway. If you are aware that society will immediately blame you for what happened to you, why would you tell? I probably wouldn’t. I don’t want the ridicule or the shame. I don’t want to have to answer difficult questions like “What were you wearing?” and then have someone who should be an advocate nod their head slowly and say “Oh, THAT’S what you had on?” That hurts.
The problem with victim shaming is that people will say that there was something the victim could have done to prevent whatever happened to them. That directly places the blame on them. But here’s the part that those people don’t or won’t understand: People have the right to live their lives however they want to without being attacked, raped, molested, assaulted or harassed. Period. No means no. And nothing that a victim did warrants someone to violate their bodies. Period.
Why aren’t we chastising the perpetrators like this? Why? I want to know. I was told by a young man that “a lot” of women lie about being raped. How do you KNOW that? Because the rapist said he didn’t rape her? Everybody is capable of lying. Everybody. Anybody. And I don’t think men understand how often women are harassed by men. On the train/bus, on the street, at work, at school, on social media. Everywhere. If we reject their advances, now we’re bitches, snobs and hoes. So many boys grow up without any rejection from women (the matriarchs in their families) so when they grow into adults and women say “No” they sometimes aren’t sure how to deal with that. Sometimes they become threatening or violent. Whenever I tell men this, they usually try to refute it. But, if you’re a guy you are not going to admit that you’ve behaved this way. Your friends aren’t going to tell you that they behave this way. And there’s a good chance your mother will never tell you she was sexually/physically harassed by a man.
I know that this happens because I am a woman. It’s happened to me more than once. You’re met with a “Bitch you think you’re too good for me?” Uh…no. I just don’t want you. Get the fuck outta my face.
Shaming people for having been a victim IS wrong. It is foolish. And it’s disheartening to the victim. You can rest assured that if you are a serial victim shamer, people you love won’t feel comfortable talking to you about being victimized.