Rape culture: The dangers of victim blaming
Victim blaming is when a victim of rape is told to take responsibility for the crime, or that both the victim and the rapist should be equally blamed, which is wrong and creates the false idea that rape is something the victim is responsible for or something people can easily avoid. Examples of victim blaming in the case of rape is when people say things like “She asked for it”; “Women know men can’t help themselves so they shouldn't dress in a way that seduces men”; “Men can’t get raped, he probably liked it”, “He/She deserved it because of their lifestyle”. Rape is never ever the victims fault Choma and it’s something that makes absolutely no sense to blame the victim for.
Try to think of it this way- if a shopkeeper gets robbed, does it make sense to say that the crime is his fault because he kept the door open which encouraged the thief to come in and steal? Not at all Choma. What encourages a person to commit a crime is their decision to do so in the first place.
There are lots of ways victims can be blamed for the abuse or rape they’ve suffered, like when the way a victim was dressed is judged; or questions like “Did you fight back” are asked, this sends a subliminal message that the victim could have avoided being raped which is not always the case. Another way victims are blamed is when their sexual history is questioned. It’s important to understand that if a woman is sexually active, it doesn’t mean that she is “asking” to be raped/abused. No one would want such a traumatic experience to happen to them. This mind set ignores the fact that a woman has the right to consent (or not consent) to sex.
The Dangers of Victim Blaming
Victim blaming creates a cycle where rape victims don’t feel a point in reporting their attackers to the police because either they won’t be believed or they will be shamed and told that it was their fault.
When abusers and rapists aren’t called out for their actions, they think that their crimes are acceptable and they won’t change their behaviour. In the end though, this only means more people become victims of rape.
A great solution to ending the cycle is to encourage boys and young men to take responsibility for their actions. Maybe you have a little brother, a nephew, a son or a guy-friend and you’ve seen them playing rough or get so angry that they hurt someone else. Instead of brushing it off and just saying “oh boys will be boys”, it’s important to teach them to see why violence is not okay and that talking is a better way to deal with anger.
Choma, introspection is when you can look back on situations that you’ve been in where you could have been wrong or silent, and try to learn from them so you can become a better person too. It’s always a good thing to try analyse yourself while you’re trying to teach others. Think about moments where you might have heard someone say something problematic about victims of rape. Problematic statements about victims of rape are any of the things I’ve mentioned above Choma, where there is any sort of insinuation that a victim of rape was in any way responsible for their own rape. Think about how it could have contributed to rape culture and understand how that kind of thinking hurts rape victims. Unlearning rape culture starts with you, Choma.
If you’re in a situation where you feel blamed/guilty for your sexual assault or if you’re afraid of reporting sexual assault because you’re scared people will shame or blame your for it, here are a few numbers you can contact for advice Choma:
National counselling line: 0861 322 322
Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA) helpline: 083 765 1235
Rape Crisis Counseling lines:
021 447-9762 (Observatory)
021 633 9229 (Athlone)
021 361 9085 (Khayalitsha)
Remember that you are not alone. If you need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657)
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