Sadly, victim blaming and sexual violence often go hand in hand. There are many myths in our society that reinforce that a survivor is somehow partly (or even fully) to blame for being sexually assaulted or abused.
Offenders sometimes state things like, “she was asking for it,” a statement which shifts blame for the attack onto the survivors. Not only are we judged for the way we dress or act in situations that might attract ‘negative attention’, but as a society we (especially women) have been bombarded with techniques on how to prevent being sexually assaulted. You may have heard these ones:
“Watch your drink.”
“Don’t dress too sexy!”
“Don’t walk alone at night.”
“Don’t drink too much!”
Of course these don’t seem like bad tips, but we need to understand something. This ‘be safe’ mentality builds a false sense of security by letting individuals believe that sexual assault is preventable. It’s not! So, someone who has taken all the proper precautions and is sexually assaulted might feel ashamed and confused —might feel like he or she should have done more to prevent the attack.
Unfortunately, prevention techniques don’t challenge the root cause of sexual violence. There is a difference between doing things that make you feel safe versus believing that when you take these precautions, you have no chance of being assaulted. Sexual violence is a crime of opportunity. Offenders look for the right moment and choose to commit a sexual assault while justifying their actions. Even if you did not take ANY precautions, you are not to blame if you are assaulted. We’ll say it again:
You are never to blame if you are assaulted or abused!
The “watch your drink” message resonates everywhere, and it’s no surprise. Alcohol is the number one drug used to facilitate sexual assaults. Yet, offenders (not survivors) must be held accountable for an assault using alcohol as a facilitator. They prey on the intoxicated. In no way did the survivors play a role in their assaults by not watching their drinks.
Sometimes survivors are scrutinized for the amount of liquor they drank before the assault took place. This argument is completely invalid. Sexual violence is a crime of opportunity and offenders will use whatever means they can (including alcohol consumption) to justify their entitlement. In many cultures alcohol is not permitted. Yet, sober assailants will still assault sober victims within these communities. This clearly shows that sexual violence is a crime of power and control over others, not one based on inhibitions.
Society tries to justify sexual violence by focusing on the actions of the victim rather than the offender. A common statement overheard among peers is, “Look at that outfit she was wearing. What did she really expect?” This statement plays off the idea that people can’t control their sexual urges and that a women’s attire has made the offender powerless to resist his or her urge to take her. By force.
As if! Sexual violence is NOT about the inability to control sexual urges.
You have the right to live the life you want without the fear of being assaulted. That means you have the freedom to dress, walk, talk, drink (or not drink), and act the way you choose. The only way to prevent sexual violence is to hold offenders, not survivors, accountable for their actions, and to challenge the thoughts and beliefs of our peers. We speak with our actions.
Tell your world!
For more information about Victim Blaming, take a look at The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (PDF).