A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how women daring to wear bikinis [insert sarcasm here] on the sandy beaches of Goa, India were being blamed for the rise in rapes in the popular tourist spot.
As you may recall, this ludicrous accusation was made by Pamela Mascarhenas, Goa’s deputy director of tourism – a woman. Some were surprised by such comments from a woman, but as it turns out, women blaming rape victims is not uncommon.
In fact, an online study of 1,061 Londoners between the ages of 18 and 50 called “Wake Up to Rape” found that more than half of women surveyed believed rape victims should take some responsibility for what happened. Of these women, almost three quarters believed that if a victim got into bed with the assailant before the attack they should accept some responsibility and one-third blamed victims who dressed provocatively or had gone back to the attacker’s house for a drink, according to BBC News.
Dancing provocatively, flirting, or wearing revealing clothing made one in eight women blame victims. Twenty-four percent of women between 18 and 24 also said that wearing a short skirt, accepting a drink, or having a conversation with the rapist made victims partly responsible for being attacked later.
I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again: A woman is never responsible for being raped, never. I know this is something I will have to say again and again because the “she asked for it” excuses are a common tactic rapists use to absolve themselves from blame and women use to distance themselves from the idea that it could just as easily have happened to them.
I wouldn’t have worn such a revealing dress, women think. I wouldn’t have danced like that or let him buy me a drink. I wouldn’t have agreed to go back to his apartment.
But who decides which skirt is too short or what dance moves are too provocative?
Does accepting a drink from someone give that person license to rape you later? Is an invitation for a night cap really code for let me violate you?
Blaming women for being raped for any of these reasons assumes women deserve what happened to them. It assumes that they could have prevented it or stopped it from happening by acting differently or changing a decision they made, but this is not the case.
No woman deserves to be raped nor does she choose to have that happen to her – that decision rests solely on the shoulders of the assailant who attacks her. A woman makes the decision to survive. Some are not so lucky.
Unfortunately, many who do survive are not reporting attacks. The UK study found that more than one in 10 people (20%) were unsure whether they would report being raped to the police because most (55%) were too embarrassed or ashamed to do so.
That’s because that’s exactly what victim-blaming does – it silences victims for fear of embarrassment and/or shame while completely absolving rapists from blame or punishment.
The result – more rapists, more attacks, more victim-blaming, and more women feeling too ashamed and embarrassed to report their crimes. And so the vicious cycle continues.
How do you think we could go about breaking this cycle?
We could start by redirecting blame to the people who really deserve it – rapists.
Thanks to fellow Care2 blogger Robin Marty for bringing this study to my attention!