In researching my last post about domestic violence, I was reminded just how prevalent victim-blaming continues to be. I read an article that chastised Rhianna, stating that women (the writer was assuming that women are always the victims of domestic violence) are at least half responsible for stopping domestic violence. Society often holds victims of violence responsible, at least when it comes to violence like domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
Like I discussed in Trauma Stigma: We Are Only As Sick As Our Secrets, victim-blaming hurts us all. It is a message that keeps us all stuck in cycles of violence and misplaced responsibility. Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle.
This is a message I repeat as often as needed in my work with trauma survivors: Abusers are responsible for the abuse. Rapists are responsible for rape.
When it comes to rape, so much emphasis is placed on what women should do to protect themselves. This feeds the illusion that if you just do/don’t do the right things you can be safe from rape. And conversely, that if a woman has been raped she must have done something wrong!
A post at sexgenderbody reminded me of this piece I’ve see circulating for years, since at least 2005. It is simple and powerful. It speaks to this issue of responsibility and control. I cannot find any information regarding the author. If anyone knows the source, please fill me in!
How to Prevent Rape
A lot has been said about how to prevent rape. Women should learn self-defense. Women should lock themselves in their houses after dark. Women shouldn’t wear short skirts. Women shouldn’t leave drinks unattended. Perhaps they shouldn’t dare to get drunk at all.
Instead of further curtailing women’s freedom, how about:
If a woman is drunk, don’t rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don’t rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don’t rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you’re still hung up on, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don’t rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don’t rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don’t rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don’t rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching tv, don’t rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don’t rape her.
If your friend thinks it’s okay to rape someone, tell him it’s not, and that he’s not your friend.
If your “friend” tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there’s an unconscious woman upstairs and It’s your turn, don’t rape her, call the police and tell the guy he’s a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it’s not okay to rape someone.
Don’t tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don’t imply that she could have avoided it if she’d only done/not done x.
Don’t imply that it’s in any way her fault.
Don’t let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he “got some” with the drunk girl.
Don’t perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.
If you agree, repost it. It’s that important. -Author unknown
Kathleen Young, Psy.D.