Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Letting' Someone Rape You - Classic Victim Blaming

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

‘Why did you let him rape you?’, ‘I wouldn’t let myself get raped'. These are phrases I’ve heard a lot and I know other survivors have as well. I know a lot of people say these things without thinking about it, without meaning anything by it. It doesn’t hurt less though. I think people don’t always realise what they are doing is classic victim blaming. It also reinforces the blame victims put on themselves already.

What ‘rape’ means
Rape is an act of violence of one person towards another. It is forced upon someone. This can be done by using physical strength, threats or coercion. The rapist takes control of the victim. The victim doesn’t have any control or power at all. It doesn’t matter what the victim wants or needs. The rapist does what he wants to do regardless.
If someone asks a victim why she let herself get raped, that person clearly doesn’t understand what rape is about. Lets change the sentence from ‘the victim let herself get raped’ to ‘the victim was raped.’ That makes a lot more sense.

Shifting the blame
It beats me why people - when they want to know why the rape happened - focus on the victim. Not only can victims not give you a definitive answer, in asking them you also presume they were somehow to blame. A far more interesting question would be: ‘Why did he rape her?’ Because, let’s face it, if the rapist wouldn’t have, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit what the victim did or didn't do. This shift in perspective is essential to stop victim blaming. Just like someone doesn’t let a perpetrator mug them, beat them or kill them, nobody lets someone rape them.
Staying safe
Of course it’s important for women to stay safe. It’s not a bad thing to be careful and aware of warning signs. We live in a harsh world and it’s very important for people to be aware of that. This is, however, not the answer to stopping rapes from happening. Because even with all the precautions of the whole wide world, it can still happen to you. I know women don’t want to think about that too much. I also understand it’s so much easier to think a woman ‘let’ herself get raped, rather than admitting that she was vulnerable and couldn’t have stopped it. Admitting you are vulnerable is difficult. But do understand that, even if you do everything in your power to stay safe, you can never be 100% safe from people wanting to harm you. And saying you can and should, is like saying a victim could have and should have as well.

Let’s change the way society looks at rape victims. And let’s do that by changing the way people talk about and to victims. As long as we all keep reminding ourselves that the rapists are the ones to blame, society will change. I can only dream of a world where victims can become survivors that much faster, because no one, no one will think they were to blame for someone raping them.

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

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