Breaking a culture that blames sexual assault victims and tells potential victims that it is their duty to make sure they are not assaulted is vital
In India, Sexual assault is just the beginning of the story…
After the assault is reported, comes a whole host of other hurdles, like dealing and shame from victim’s family, threats and violence, and ostracisation from the community. The courts can take years or even decades to reach a verdict on a particular case and there are even instances when the victims are forced to actually marry their rapist. Unfortunately, these are the results, in women’s lives, for speaking for themselves. The aftermath can produce annoyances and concerns’ that become judgmental and stifling. But is ‘victim blaming’ the only option we have to cover us up as bystanders?
It’s about time to change our attitudes and behaviours across the community that condone or support and construct stories of directly or indirectly blaming the victims. Breaking a culture that not only blames sexual assault victims but also tells potential victims, especially women, that it is their duty to make sure they are not assaulted is vital. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, we can stop wondering what the victim did to deserve it and start wondering what allowed the perpetrator to go through with it.
In an age when rape is still casually shot through with lazy assumptions and misconstrued beliefs; she was a bit drunk! She didn’t say no! She was wearing a lot of make and less clothing! Why was she out at that time anyway? With statistics available surrounding atrocious rates of violence against women and sexual assault and rape around the world, it’s easy for me, as a woman to feel that our rights and safety are both under attack.
For most of my life, socially, I have been made to feel vulnerable simply because I am female, to the point that I was questioned about my fearlessness of refusing to be a bystander against unjust. I am often made to have my mind shift to dark thoughts especially when I am being intimidated by the males of the community in order to overpower my bold existence. To live in constant fear of a mental and sexual assaulting community is absurd and ultimately can make anyone wonder, and I hate that we buy into the rape culture myth that violence against women, especially sexual assault, happens when a stranger jumps out from around a corner and tackles you.
I think our biggest issue in victim-blaming comes from our rape culture myth that what women wear or do or say affects their chances of being raped: it doesn’t. Women should not have to protect themselves or change the way they want to appear for fear of rape: People should not rape. And what we choose to wear does not give you permission to mistreat us either. Women have been objectified by our society for quite some time and while reinforcing that women are objects to be seen is not ideal, women should be allowed to be seen however they want, and should be able to spend their life with whomever they want, without any individual thinking that anything other than clear and sober that NO means No.
Even more what is important to remember is that sexual assault is a deliberate and intended behaviour rather than the consequence of stress, individual pathology, substance use or a ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘tempestuous’ relationship. Sexual assault is more about gaining control, not losing it.
The challenge for society is to treat the crime of sexual abuse as seriously as it deserves and place the responsibility solely at the hands of the perpetrator. Until we do, women will remain at risk and afraid to speak up.