I will try not to make this seem like a rant. It will be hard.
Every time a woman is raped, people arise from their slumber, dust off their brains and proceed to list all the ways the victim caused her own rape.
*screams loudly into the abyss*
According to these people, the woman would not have been raped if she had not gone to his house/gotten drunk/worn a short dress/put on makeup/smiled invitingly at the rapist/been born.
People get so carried away criticising the victim that they forget to address the main issue at hand- the rape. Even when the rapist is criticised, it is brief and quickly followed up with a “but” which signals a shift of blame to the victim.
“Of course he should not have raped her BUT she should not have put herself in the position to be raped.”
By the way, there is a difference between:
“He shouldn’t have raped her but she should not have been at his house.” and
“She should not have been at his house but he should not have raped her.”
It is what comes after the but that really matters.
Now I know there are rules of safety we have to abide by, and we women should be especially cautious. I know the threat of rape, murder and other bad things is always lurking and so we have to be careful. But I maintain that it is so insensitive and callous to criticise a rape victim and tell her all the ways she caused her own agony and list what she could have done to prevent it. You can advise your sisters and friends on ways to be careful, but if they do get raped, what they could have done or should not have done becomes IRRELEVANT. The spotlight should then be on the rape and the rapist.
Yes women have to be careful, but boys need to have it drilled in their heads that rape is bad. They need to know that no excuses will be made for them and that they alone will face the wrath of society if they were to commit this heinous crime. They need to be taught not to violate a woman, to respect her autonomy and personal space. People say it is unrealistic to think we can curb rape by telling boys to refrain from it. Murder is bad and people still do it. There will always be evil, they say, it is therefore more realistic to tell girls to be careful. I agree that we may not be able to obliterate rape from society, but I don’t think that is a good enough excuse to let rapists run wild.
We know dark alleyways are not safe. If a man is murdered in a dark alleyway, people would not just shrug it off and ‘well he should not have been in a dark alley.” Regardless of what the man should have done, the attention will rightly be on the murder and the murderer. Regardless of what we think of the woman’s behaviour, the vitriol should be directed at the rapist.
When people tell a woman what she should not have done, they do not even say it in a sympathetic way. It is mostly in a well it serves you right, that’s what you get for being a bad girl. Next time you will sit your butt at home and read your bible kinda way. It is so cruel to do that to a person. Odds are, she is probably blaming herself. For some foolish person to come along and further stomp on her is horrible. Even if you feel she has been foolish, keep it to yourself. It’s not every thought that pops into thy head that thou must speakest.
Am I, as a woman, supposed to view each member of the male species as a potential rapist? Are we women to be in a perpetual state of fear around all men? This is what I am getting from the victim blamers. That is no way to live. The onus is on the girl to prevent her rape rather than it being on the boy not to rape. The rape apologists might as well shrug and say “oh well, boys will be
rapists boys, next time don’t do this and that.” This line of thinking is so dangerous as it protects the rapist and contributes to the rape pandemic. Every time you blame the victim, you are absolving the rapist of his crime and shifting the weight of the crime from the rapist to the victim.
I am always on edge around strange men. But then I have friends, relatives that I am comfortable with to an extent. I could be raped by any of them and if that happens people will find a way to blame me. Rape is not always by a violent stranger. It could be a trusted friend, a dear uncle. It could be anyone. Should I not trust any man? Is that any way to live?
One of my male friends had a birthday recently and I went to drop a cake at his house. He was home alone. I dropped the cake, wished him a happy birthday, stayed a few minutes and left. Now if anything had happened, people would have blamed me. “Oh why did she take the cake to his house?” “Once she saw he was home alone, she should have run out as fast as possible.” “Why did she get him a cake in the first place, she must have wanted him.” People would go on and on forgetting that 1) I have been hurt and I need support not condemnation. 2) I have done nothing wrong! The one who hurt me is the one in the wrong.
One problem with humans is our lack of empathy. We do not truly feel the pain of others. We also think we are invincible. I’m sure most of the women blaming the victims have male friends. They may think their friends are incapable of such acts, as though the women who got raped ignored the big RAPIST sign on their attacker’s foreheads. These apologists think rape only happens because people put themselves in “that position” and if all women were to behave themselves, rape would be extinct. The only women these people have sympathy for are the ones raped in their homes by armed robbers. Even then people will still look for something to blame on the victim.
It is irritating but not completely shocking when a man is a rape apologist. The truth is no matter how sympathetic some men are to the issue of rape, they are still a bit removed from it. No matter how much they may yell “Men get raped too!”, rape is still an abstract concept to them. They may conceded that rape is awful yes, but it is not their reality. It is for this reason that we often have to ask the question “what if it was your sister who got raped?” A number of men cannot fully comprehend the idea of rape which is why it is necessary to make it more relatable to them by bringing up the important female figures in their lives. But why should this be the case? Why should it take (the thought of) a person’s sister/mother/daughter getting raped for him to stop making excuses for rapists?
If the threat of rape was as prominent for men as it is for women, the number of male rape apologists would reduce. It is easy to say a girl deserved to be raped because she was drinking alone with a guy, when you do not fear getting raped by your friends. As a man, before you blame a woman for her rape, imagine you were her. Do you feel fear when hanging out alone with a male friend? A man can get drunk with his male friend, female friend, sleepover drunk in a room filled with male or female friends without any fear! The men who make excuses for rape think they are exempt from the threat of rape. If they could really imagine being violated, and then being blamed for the rape, they would probably show a little tenderness. The fact that a man can be comfortable in a room full of women and women are (to be) cautious in a room full of men speaks volumes.
Now female rape apologists I do not understand at all. I cannot even rationalise it. Some people say that they are just trying to garner favour from the men. My goodness. How can a woman say such things just so some random men will temporarily like her? Is this possible? How pathetic. Perhaps all apologists, male and female, are victims of the culture we live in. The culture that crucifies women for having sex, regardless of the circumstances.
Back in school, I overhead a conversation between a boy and some girls. The boy basically said one of us girls could get raped and there was nothing we could do about it. The girls protested, they would go to the police e.tc. and he laughed off their protests. I knew deep down that for the most part he was right and that annoyed me. He was aware that we lived in a culture that blamed women for their rape. The fact that he was so comfortable, happy even, to throw that in our faces infuriated me. One of the girls asked him: “Well what if you got raped?” The boy replied “A woman raping a man is like a woman giving a man a brand new Mercedes.”
This is what we have created. By blaming the victim, we are telling the men that they can do whatever they want. I can see a man taunting a woman he just raped, saying “who are you going to tell? Everyone is going to think you are a slut.” A lot of women never report their rapes because of shame. It’s a harsh society we live in.
I have complied a list of rules for women to live by. Please beware that this list is by no means exhaustive. Also note that you can still get raped even if you abide by all the rules.
- Do not have any male friends.
- Do not have any male relatives
- Do not live in a city that has men
- Do not smile at any men because friendliness equals consent.
- Don’t be rude to men because rudeness equals consent.
- Wear unflattering clothes so as not to awaken the beast that lies within all men. “Look at her short skirt. Did she really expect not to get raped?”
- Never stay at a male’s house past 5pm because as we all know rape is okay once it starts to get dark. “What was she doing at his house at 9pm?”
- Stay in your house, wearing decent clothing of course
- Invest in decent nightwear. You would not want to tempt the burglar you foxy vixen.
- Invest in an invisibility cloak (one with full body coverage, lest you tempt a man with your sexy toes.
I feel I have not done this topic justice. I know what I want to say but the right words are hard to find. I am going to end with this: if you hear a woman has been raped, resist the urge to blame her in some way. If it is biting you so much, confide in your diary that you find her actions so foolish. We need to condemn the rapists more strongly, remove all the blame from the victim and place it squarely on the head of the rapist. Tame and rewire the foolish part of your brain that makes you say things like “she should not have put herself in the position to be raped.”