Yesterday was a long and stressful day, and I’m experiencing quite a few mixed emotions. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to write about them last night–hopefully tonight I will have more time.
Something else that I find tiresome is the long debate and discussion going on regarding who’s responsible in cases of sexual assault. I am exhausted with all of the victim blaming and the sympathy with the attackers. It always seems to be the case that whenever a woman is assaulted, members of the community and members of the media come forward to drag her through the mud. The story is all about what she was wearing and how much she was drinking and how promiscuous she was, and how these factors contributed to the downfall of the rapist, and his “bright future.” You know what really ruins the future careers and reputations of a rapist? The fact that he committed rape. The fact that he was clearly told that there was a certain kind of person who “deserves” to be assaulted. The fact that the adults or other community members are so eager to come in and “clean things up.” Do I think that a teenage girl should be partying and drinking until she’s passed out? No. But my reaction to that, unlike so many popular reactions, is one of compassion and empathy, not of scorn. So I’m going to take a slightly controversial stand here, and say that anyone who has a greater feeling of compassion for the attacker than for the victim is contributing to the problem. You’re complicit in the rape culture we have, and yes we have a rape culture. We have a culture that says those with social power are allowed to sexually assault and exploit those with less. The fact that we even have conversations like this sickens me. The fact that people in the media are pointing out that in other countries and cultures, rape is just a part of a woman’s life–in those cultures, rape and abuse are acceptable punishments for any woman for any reason. That sounds like a threat to me. When you are telling me to think of the times I have been raped, to think of all of the friends I have and people I have known who have survived sexual assault, and tell me “it could be so much worse,” I cannot help but wonder if that’s what you want. We already have such a permissive attitude towards assault in this country, that legal punishment for it–if, indeed, any is doled out–amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist, and you want to remind us, oh so often, that things could easily be set up in such a way that people can rape with impunity. You disgust me.
The only way we are going to fix this problem in our culture is to stop believing that to rape anybody is ever acceptable. Stop shedding tears for the rapists. Stop treating the victim’s behaviors (if there even are any bad behaviors) as justifications for stigma and violence, and start seeing them for what they most likely are: a sign that something is wrong. And maybe, just maybe, stop blaming the victim and start trying to help. I know it’s a crazy concept, that violent criminals should be severely punished, and victims should be protected. I’m clearly living in the wrong country, the wrong society for that belief. That the justice system is supposed to deliver justice and protection against violent offenders. Every person who speaks up in favor of the attacker, and every person who remains silent about how messed up this system is, is complicit.