A few days ago, I was walking to a meeting and two strangers shouted at me in the middle of the street about how “hot” I was and how “good” my butt looked in the jeans I was wearing.
I felt ashamed, insecure, uncomfortable and completely violated by their words, but I just kept walking with my head down.
At first I told myself I was just exaggerating what had happened. A little bit later I looked back on the situation and wondered why I would blame myself for something they had done.
“We live in a rape-cultured society,” Jessica Williamson, K-State professor of psychological sciences, said.
Williamson said that rape culture is the concept that makes sexual violence a normal thing in our society, more so to women than men.
Unfortunately, in this so-called “culture,” it has become more normal to blame a person, male or female, for being sexually assaulted, than to blame the accused assaulter.
According to the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the U.S. experience violent sexual behavior in their lifetime at least once.
Too often, a woman’s decision to wear a short dress or to show too much cleavage is credited as the reason for sexual assault. The way women dress, walk or talk should not be the reason they are experiencing this traumatic situation.
Their right to their own body was taken away. Aren’t we supposed to be living in a free country? If so, we should be able to wear and act how we want without fear of being violated for it. The responsibility should not lie on the shoulders of the survivor, but on the conscience of the accused assaulter.
Blaming the survivor for the situation happening can be extremely dangerous for survivors of any type of harassments or assaults.
In an article called “Avoiding Victim Blaming,” from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, survivors of sexual assault or sexual violence who are in an environment where they are being blamed for their assault creates a barrier.
This barrier marginalizes survivors in such a way that places them in more danger because they do not feel safe enough to come forward and report what they are going through.
People who employ dominance over another person, in such instances like sexual assault, do so because they want to demonstrate that they have power. It should not, by any means, be seen as the fault of the survivor.
The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence said that accused assaulters have many ways of manipulating their targets, such as trickery, coercion, threats and many others that allow them to take advantage of people they see as less powerful.
In some cases, survivors might feel uncomfortable looking for help outside their circle of trust. Maybe they think nobody will believe or understand what they are going through, so instead of reporting the assault to the authorities, they feel safer telling a friend or adult they feel they can trust.
If someone comes up to you and is brave enough to let you know what they are feeling, please be considerate enough to listen to them without judgment, to validate their feelings and to assure them they are not alone. Tell them there are people who can help and places they can go.
The Crisis Center, an institute that helps survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence all over the country, including Manhattan, is one of these places.
Judy Davis, executive director of the Crisis Center, said the organization’s hope is to make survivors feel like they can find “comfort and support” when they reach out to the center.
“I have had a lot of friends that have gone through victim blaming, maybe not necessarily physical but emotional and mental abuse for sure,” Elaina Latimer, junior in family studies, said. “People need to share their stories because that could help other people realize that they might be going through the same thing and that they are not alone.”
We need to open our eyes to how much harm we, as a society, are doing.
By telling sexual assault survivors they should not wear something or go somewhere, we are allowing the accused assaulter to keep hurting others and avoid being held accountable for his or her actions.
Anyone could silently be going through this right know, and words could be the most powerful thing in the world.
Thinking before we speak and especially before we act is a fundamental strategy to a healthy community that people need to put into practice.
Speak out. If you know someone is hurt in any way, do something. It is our responsibility as a society to reassure survivors of sexual assault rather than make them feel like they are at fault.
The solution to victim blaming lies in the hands of every single member of society.
The rape culture we so easily created can be just as easily be forgotten. I believe we need to stop the judgments because the truth of the matter is no one deserves to be sexually assaulted, and no one asks to be sexually assaulted.
Listen to what those survivors have to say, what they are going through and what they are feeling. We might even realize that they never wanted to be in that position in the first place.