Don’t Blame the Victim

Sep 212005
Authors: Heather Wilson a member of Victim’s Assistance Team, Student Alliance for Gender Education

On Sept. 20 an editorial was published entitled "Prevention is the Key" which had a very strong victim-blaming message. Instead of focusing the article on the perpetrators, you focused on what victims do wrong to essentially "put themselves" in bad situations and "ask for" sexual assault and rape. Such victim focused mindsets perpetuate the violence and re-traumatize victims by spotlighting victims instead of addressing the perpetrators.

One in four women are raped or sexually assaulted by the time they are sophomores in college and I promise none of them "asked for it." I also promise they all asked themselves 1,000 times over what they could have done differently and tortured themselves with blame. Sexual assault and rape are about power and 80 percent of these crimes are premeditated by the perpetrator, long before they or their victim steps foot out of the house.

Saying phrases such as "…ultimately women are on their own and need to take precautions to protect themselves" very strongly sends the message that women are in complete control of these crimes against them and thus are at fault when they don't take the proper "precautions" to prevent them.

Society always asks questions like "Why did she talk to strangers?" "Why was she alone?" "Why was she dressed like that?" "Why was she drinking and why did she leave that drink unattended?" You made these statements at the opening of your article followed by, I'm paraphrasing, "though we [women] have heard these warnings our entire lives, sexual assaults still happen." That's because victims are not the ones doing anything wrong!

Why don't you ask, "Why did he rape her?" Is that too obvious of a question? Because, for being so blatant, it is never the one asked.

I'm positive that any woman or man would have much rather stayed as opposed to getting assaulted that day. The fact is they did not have ESP and know what would happen to them and making "if only" statements and asking "why were they" questions does NOT help them recover from their attack, nor does it change what happened. It does not get anyone closer to finding or prosecuting their perpetrator who will, statistically, attack again.

What it does is re-traumatize the victim further in habilitating their lifelong healing process, which is what your article did. The key to preventing and ending sexual assaults and rapes has nothing to do with potential victims changing their behaviors. It takes perpetrators to commit these crimes, addressing victims won't solve anything.

This editorial, like most news and media, focused on a stranger rape. These are very rare. At CSU, 93 percent of assaults are committed by acquaintances of the victim. Media should make more of an effort to focus on these rapes since 25 percent of women will most likely experience an acquaintance assault, not a stranger in the bushes one. This kind of attitude distances us from the real danger of rape in our everyday lives. Just because we don't walk alone at night doesn't mean we're safe from these crimes, far from it.

The Office of Women's Programs and Studies has many resources such as SAGE (Student Alliance for Gender Education) where volunteers educate various groups on campus about the facts of sexual assault, and VAT (Victim's Assistance Team), a 24-hour line for anyone affected by sexual assault which is separate from the police to help victims and is 100 percent confidential. The number for VAT is 491-7111. Another program is the Men's Project where men gather to help educate other men about confronting sexuality and gender socialization.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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