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Shoot the Messenger: Blame the Victim

by Seana Sperling Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014 at 10:19 PM

Victims of rape are often blamed for the assaults because of the lingering sexism in our society.

An article in The Nation by Jessica Valenti, In Rape Tragedies, The Shame is Ours May 6, 2013, addresses victim blaming and how some rape victims are even punished by a judgmental public. According to Valenti, a woman can be labeled a slut for being a victim.

An indifferent society asks: "Why were you wearing that? Why were you at that party? What did you expect when you joined the Military with a bunch of guys? Were you drinking or high?" They do not ask these questions of someone who was robbed, stabbed, beaten, or any other types of assault. This is all about the endemic misogyny that has been percolating in this country for well over two decades.

I believe this attitude evolved from the Moral Majority take-over of mainstream media in the late 1980s, which allowed the bullies to take shots at Feminists and all strong women. The term Femi-Nazi, was popularized and used to put the “girls,” in their place by the Far Right. Dial up to the new millennium: The 2013 Academy Awards was a shaming of strong and talented women in the Industry. Seth McFarlane’s all male chorus line danced to the self-righteous refrain of, “We saw your boobs.” It is evident that the upcoming generation is being taught that being sexist is the American way. This type of discrimination can lead to more serious issues.

There has been an upswing in violence against women. Recently there was a report on NPR about rape on college campuses and the percentage of male college students who had date-raped or raped. The percentage of sex offenders was astounding. Also, most of the assaults had gone unreported.

It is very hard for a victim to report rape because there is such a lack of support for the victim and some in the community even turn on them. Some people will even go so far as to deny that this happened to the female making the report. Some may shun the victim or even persecute them further.

The summer of 2006, I would come home and find my door unlocked to my Capitol Hill apartment in Seattle. Nothing had been stolen, but my file cabinet had been gone through and things were moved around a bit. All of my passwords had been accessed as well. The locksmith said it sounded like stalking when he changed the locks for me.

In late September, I was drugged in my home and later assaulted while unconscious during a night break-in. I believe they put something in the open bottle of wine that was on the kitchen counter during the day. Later, when I came home from work, I drank a glass and a half from it. (I think the criminal/s took pictures during the crime and posted them on the Internet because after that, something went viral. It was as if the entire community had turned against me. They were treating me as if I were some kind of crazy pervert that they were trying to drive from the community. I remember the hideous smile of satisfaction on my upstairs neighbor’s face after that night.)

I was in shock and didn’t tell friends until a month after it happened. I had so much to deal with. I had just transitioned from part time to a permanent position at my college in our insanely busy office and I had to move from the apartment as soon as I could. I needed to get to a safer environment and deal with my own denial of the assault and the emotional upheaval that accompanies such a crisis. I reported the break-in, but not the assault. The lone Police officer that showed up did not even take prints and there were obvious signs of the break-in.

I finally told a woman who I thought was a close friend. Her first reaction was, “You weren’t raped. If you say you were raped, I can’t be your friend.” I was astonished. Why would anyone say that to a friend? It was as if she did not want me to report the assault. I spoke to the Police right after that. I cut ties with this person and within a year I’d heard she had moved back to the East Coast. I’m not sure what she was afraid of. The Police never followed up after the second interview.

After I began telling friends, my emotions got the best of me and one day at work I broke down in tears. I had just moved again and I was exhausted from lack of sleep caused by my hyper vigilant state. I was also dealing with organized bullying from the community, which I can only assume was triggered by whatever the criminals had posted online. One Neo-conservative Christian woman in my office glared at me for being upset that day. I wonder how she would have reacted under the same conditions. This is an example of people going after the victim and Law Enforcement not doing their duty. It is no wonder that so many assaults go unreported.

About one year later in 2007, I saw a young male student from China at our college with a truck driver cap that had RAPE in rainbow mylar printed across the front. I wondered if he would still wear this cap if he became a victim of rape. His cavalier attitude towards this type of assault showed his maturity level and his sexism. I wanted to say something to him about the cap, but I didn’t. Evidently no one said anything because he continued to wear it all quarter. Would he have worn a cap that said GAY BASHING or WOMAN BEATER or CHILD MOLESTOR? Somehow a cap that said RAPE was perfectly acceptable to him as well as the community.

Rape is the type of assault that you do not heal from quickly. It does not make you become crazy, paranoid, etc. but it does make you very aware of your surroundings. You become hyper vigilant. In my case, I pulled away from people that were not supportive and that I felt I could not trust any more. This was much more about self-preservation than paranoia. If people are not supportive when you have suffered such trauma, then you need to leave them. You are better off alone than being with abusive people.

If someone claims they were raped, don’t think, “That’s impossible. Bad things like that don’t happen here.” Unfortunately, bad things do happen everywhere and even to good people. No one deserves to be raped. No one is looking for it. The same thing can be said about bullying. No one, “Asks for it.”

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