WARNING TO SURVIVORS OUT THERE, CHANCES ARE THIS POST WILL BE RATHER TRIGGERING SO READ ON WITH CAUTION AND PLEASE LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. I DON’T WANT THIS POST TO AFFECT YOU IN A NEGATIVE WAY.
I was just scrolling down my Facebook timeline the other day and happened upon a photo of a girl whom I didn’t know with a bunch of text written underneath. The picture showed the girl wearing sportswear and the text explained that she had worn that outfit to go out and do some shopping and had heard a woman telling her daughter and some other man that if that’s how she was going to dress then she was asking to be raped or assaulted. In actuality, the girl had been raped in the past and she even commented that she had been wearing baggy trousers and an XXL hoodie when it happened. It got me thinking about how much of a rape culture there is in a lot of countries and how people who say things like “she deserves to get attacked if she’s wearing that” are just perpetuating the culture. You might be sick of hearing about rape culture but the hard fact of it is that it exists and you will be hearing about it for a long time to come if something doesn’t change. I have a list of 10 things, and probably some more, that I believe survivors are tired of hearing and I also believe that it’s the issues brought up by these comments plus many others that prevent people from reporting or talking about these issues.
10 – It would be best to deal with this issue on campus in front of the disciplinary committee than going to the police. I’ve heard of a lot of people who were attacked on campus being told not to report it to the police but the truth of the matter is that most universities and colleges have these disciplinary committees set up to deal with things like rape and sexual assault in house because they claim that it makes it easier on the survivor. Honestly, I can’t imagine having to go to university or college and running the risk of seeing the perpetrator again is very comforting or helpful to the survivor. I really do believe that some of these committees are set up so the uni/college can give the impression that they’re dealing with these issues whilst brushing many of them under the carpet. This gives a lot of people involved in this process more opportunity to be more inclined to tell you to just drop it and move on with your life. At the end of the day, these disciplinary committees will not give the survivor any justice whatsoever because the only thing they have jurisdiction over is the perpetrators position within the institution whether student or faculty. They cannot send anyone to prison so if that’s what the survivor would prefer it would be a much better plan to report it to the police when and if they every feel ready to do so.
9 – Why did/didn’t you report it? and Why didn’t you report it sooner? This one is very irritating especially if it is coming from someone in the police who you’ve just reported the crime to. They of all people should know that, with vicious attacks like rape and sexual assault, it’s not uncommon for survivors to put off reporting for many reasons. Also, it’s very irritating if you’re confiding in someone who then turns around and asks this. I’m sorry but it’s really none of their business why you did or didn’t report it, either at all or sooner, because it’s your choice. Not theirs. Taking charge of the situation is something the survivor needs to do on their own and they shouldn’t be pushed into doing it or made to feel guilty about not reporting.
8 – But I thought you/they came/went around to their/your place. How could it have been rape/assault? Talk about patronising. First thing that comes to mind here is that most rapes and assaults are committed by people whom the survivor knows and probably trusts so it may not be uncommon for either of them to be at the other person’s house. Where it happened doesn’t matter. If the attack happened in a house or happened in an alley it doesn’t matter because it was still traumatising and where it happened doesn’t change that. Believe me. The only time that where it happened should come into question is when and if the survivor chooses to report to the police so they can go and seal the area off to collect evidence.
7 – But you were just a child. Honestly, age shouldn’t be an issue either. It really annoys me that when people who were abused or attacked as children are brave enough to report these kinds of things they are treated as if they’ve made the whole thing up. There’s a huge variety of issues that people who were attacked as a child suffer from later in life and yet I don’t think I’ve heard of a single defence lawyer who hasn’t tried to blame the survivors issues on something else. Obviously, it’s the defence lawyers job to try and poke holes in a survivors story but blaming their issues on something else, like genetics, for example, when certain issues have not been proven to be linked in any such way is ridiculous.
6 – You’ve only just remembered?! How can you forget something like that?! Again, another very annoying one. It’s rather common for survivors of traumatic experiences to repress and block out the memories. In one study 59% of women who had been sexually abused before their 18th birthday had repressed a lot of what happened. It’s more common for repression to occur when circumstances were more violent than it is in attacks that weren’t so violent however that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Some survivors can go years, even decades, without remembering anything about what happened while some will repress most of the incident and have a few memories of it over the years. It’s claimed that repression can alter the memory of the survivor and they will fabricate bits and pieces to make everything fit neatly together but I don’t believe there is any proof of this at the moment.
5 – You look like you’re doing ok. You haven’t got any bruises or cuts on you. It doesn’t look like you fought back. Are you sure you were attacked? Anyone who’s going through anything, big or small, can make it look like they’re doing ok and they’re dealing with things. A smile really can hide a thousand emotions. The truth is anyone who’s been assaulted or raped, whether it was violent or not, will not be doing ok especially if they’ve never spoken to anyone about it before and even more so when it’s just happened. Another big misconception about rape and assault is that if the survivor was really attacked they’d have marks on them especially if it was violent or they were fighting back. Admittedly, the survivor is more likely to be bruised and hurt if it was a violent attack. However, each person will have a different reaction to these situations. It’s called fight or flight. Some people will just freeze up and won’t be able to do anything while others will fight for as long as they can. Just because someone froze up and couldn’t do anything doesn’t mean they weren’t attacked and it also doesn’t mean that they weren’t attacked if they haven’t got any visible marks. Unless the comment about not having any bruises or cuts is coming from a doctor, which would be even more infuriating because they should know the deal with this, anyone who the survivor talks to has no right to say this because you don’t know what marks they have anywhere else on their body except from the parts you can see. Also, never, ever ask a survivor if they’re sure they were attacked. First rule of being a confidant: don’t question what happened. At all. Final note on this one, rape and sexual assault are technically classed as sex crimes however these attacks are NOT about sex. They are about the attacker getting a kick out of overpowering someone and being able to use them in any way they see fit.
4 – Tell me everything that happened. Don’t miss any details out. I can understand this one being asked by a police officer or therapist or doctor or something but if anyone else asks then they are way, way out of line. Did you ever consider the fact that maybe they don’t want to recount every single harrowing moment of their attack to someone who doesn’t need to know that information? It’s nobody’s business what happened unless the survivor chooses to report and then, obviously, they need to know what happened. Chances are that, whether the attack was recent or in the past, a survivor will not want anyone knowing their business unless they have to. They’re also not going to feel comfortable being pressured into explaining it. Honestly, it almost sounds like the person asking this is trying to say that the survivor is lying and you don’t believe them, unless it’s information that is needed by law enforcement, etc.
3 – You must have been doing something to provoke the attack. Do I really have to explain why this one is so aggravating? This is straight up victim blaming and this is one of the reasons that rape culture still exists. This entire sentence suggests that the survivor was doing something to cause the attack. Let me let you in on a little secret, most attacks are not random and the perpetrator is usually someone known to the survivor, like I said before, who is taking advantage of some sort of situation, perhaps when they’ve been left alone together. I don’t have any evidence to prove this but I would have to admit I do believe that an attacker needs only 3 things, opportunity, desire to overpower someone and the survivors trust. All 3 are pretty easy to obtain I’d imagine. I would just like to know what motivates a rapist because I can’t, for one second, understand where they get the desire to overpower someone and attack them from.
2 – Have you spoken to him/her since? Maybe you just misunderstood what happened. It doesn’t get much more infuriating than this. Firstly, I don’t know many survivors who’d want to talk to their attacker ever again, never mind just to ask them what exactly went down between them. This thing about misunderstanding the situation, I want to make it very clear because people keep blurring the lines between what’s what. Rape is when you are forced or coerced against your will to endure a sexual act involving penetration with anything, yes, anything. This even includes oral penetration and the use of any body part or anything else. Sexual assault is when you are made to commit or endure a sexual act against your will which normally involves touching and does not involve penetration. It’s as simple as that and yet people constantly just switch around which phrase they use. If you say to someone who was sexually assaulted “wait, you were raped?” don’t be surprised if they turn around and tell you that they weren’t raped and that they were sexually assaulted because there is a difference and for a lot of survivors, if not all of them, it’s very important that you get it right. They will find it much harder to cope than they already do if you’re sitting there telling them they were raped when they were actually sexually assaulted.
1 – What were you wearing? Were you drunk? You shouldn’t have drunk that much. Were you alone or with people you knew? Please stop trying to control other people’s lives. Truthfully, clothing does not cause a person to attack someone, the attackers brain makes that conscious decision. It’s ridiculous. It’s like causing a car crash and saying someone’s clothing made them do it. I’m sorry but it was most likely your reckless driving that caused the car crash, not anything else. Another clear example of victim blaming. Not drinking too much is another one. Each person has a different limit for alcohol so what’s too much for someone might not be for someone else. It’s ridiculous. Yes, alcohol reduces your inhibitions but what I don’t think people understand is that once someone has enough alcohol in their system they cannot legally consent to sex. At all. Even if the person says yes to sex there is no way that person has legally consented to sex because the brain is more susceptible to being persuaded into doing things it wouldn’t normally do when inebriated. Going out with people you don’t know is ridiculous too. If you go out with a couple of friends to a club there’s obviously going to be people there you don’t know. At the end of the day the only thing anyone can do is know when they’ve reached their alcohol limit and make sure they are going out with people they trust or meeting up with people they trust. The thing about clothes is absurd. We are human beings and we have the right to choose what we want to wear. It’s an individual choice for each of us. If any of us were to walk out of the house naked and go about our day like we normally would, assuming first that we didn’t get arrested for indecent exposure, that doesn’t mean that we’re walking around asking to be attacked it just means we decided we didn’t want to wear any clothes that day. That’s all.
I also just want to take a minute to explain to you why the Metropolitan Police website is absolutely wrong and, in my opinion, completely outdated. Click here, it’s the link to the page I’m talking about. Firstly I mostly agree with the definition they have posted for sexual assault although I do believe they should have mentioned that it also includes being forced to touch the attacker in a sexual way. My main issue is the fact that they’ve separated out the definition of rape into serious sexual assault too. They start the rape section saying that rape is penetration then apparently they believe that assault by penetration is something different. It’s all a form of rape though.
A couple of other posts that show comments that should not be made to or about survivors
22 Comments About Rape That Will Make You Really Angry
20 Things Never to Say to a Friend that Confides in You about Sexual Assault
This rape culture and culture of slut shaming and victim blaming needs to stop. It’s just giving rapists more reasons to attack because they believe they will get away with it. With more and more slut shaming and victim blaming going on, these people think they won’t get blamed if everyone else is blaming the survivor so they will keep on attacking people. This all needs to stop and these issues need to be getting talked about. Screw this “it’s all so taboo” nonsense and start thinking about the harm it’s doing not talking about it. The more it gets talked about perhaps the more people will realise rape and sexual assault are NOT the survivors’ fault and the perpetrators need to be caught and dealt with properly.
Hope y’all are having a good Friday