I used to get into arguments a lot on my Facebook page that ranged from a myriad of topics, until I finally got rid of these people. The first person I got rid of was one who believed victims of sexual assault should take some responsibility for what happened to them. He said they (primarily women) should take particular care in how they dress, act, where they go, how they interact with men, and so on and so forth. This kind of thinking is damaging because it says men are uncontrollable monsters. This kind of thinking is also damaging because it suggests women shouldn’t have interactions with men period–and that is how I took it. If I even say hello to a guy and decide to interact with him and I am wearing a cute outfit and he decides to take me out and decides to assault me after the date, I suppose I was asking for it because I dared give someone a chance at being a possible partner in my life. (I am engaged, by the way.)
It isn’t just the court systems that victim blame. It can be people you love and trust who will blame you, even though they will admit that your assailant was wrong for what they did. However, they still blame you because they think you were leading your assailant on in some way, while trying to reconcile within themselves why it happened and also, funny enough, wanting you to not act that way anymore so that doesn’t happen again. They consider it a lesson learned, when it isn’t a lesson that never should have been learned from the start, no matter what you were doing. I don’t care if you were sending nude pictures to your assailant. Once your assailant lays their hands on you and you say no and they won’t stop, you are the victim, no matter what you did before.
Your assailant is often a person you trust, someone you think you feel safe around, someone who is your friend or someone who you are flirting with or someone who may even be your significant other. Heck, your assailant could be someone cheating on their partner, even though you are in no way encouraging the infidelity but are trying to discourage it in your own way; however, you are too afraid to be direct because of the assailant’s history. Someone may be telling you not to tell because of that history of this person while warning you to keep away from your assailant–who won’t stay away, even if you say no. And even if you never say no, silence does not mean ‘yes.’ You may be too scared to say ‘no.’
Victim blaming is arguably just as damaging as the assault itself. While you can tell yourself it wasn’t your fault, those who blame you will shoot darts at everything you did that led up to the assault so that way you are constantly thinking about what exactly happened during the assault and what you could have done. You can have flashbacks, panic attacks, crying spells, and even have suicidal thoughts and plans. If there was already insurmountable stress in your life, like a mental illness episode you’re going through, things are going to be quadrupled in how worse everything is for you. The assault is going to make you more depressed, anxious, and suicidal. The victim blaming is going to intensify your illness to the point where you’re screaming and crying and telling others you want to kill yourself–and they don’t seem to want to take it seriously because they don’t understand. Some will try to protect you, but you know those people can’t always be around to keep you safe from yourself. Sometimes you’re stuck in silence. Oftentimes you have to pretend nothing happened. Others will tell you they hate victim mentalities, but that is another way to blame the victim because there is no set time period in which you should be over what happened to you. The important thing is that you try to let yourself heal from the incident. Yet, if you’re dealing with a mental illness, that’s hard. Really hard. Your mental illness is already deluding you from the beginning, and some people develop mental illnesses after the incident.
Others tell you that you should have fought and should have been angry, but people react to assaults in so many different ways, especially if it’s a person they forgive time and time again and still continue to like. These are the kinds of assaults that don’t hit you until even after a day or two when it happened. Then you realize what happened, it hits you all at once, and you are so overwhelmed that you start having flashbacks as to what occurred. Bits and pieces of your memory are missing. Only the worst things are ingrained in your memory. You’re pretty sure a few other things happened while you were trying to avoid the person trying to force themselves on you, but you can’t remember those things.
Also, sexual assault doesn’t have to be rape or leave marks. Sexual assault is simply someone forcing themselves upon you without your consent, thinking that you wanted it and in fact enjoyed it. Sometimes these victims pretend they don’t care–but they’re still scared. Other times they’ll fight. Yet, each victim will react differently depending on the circumstances and history of the assailant they’re dealing with. Regardless of whether it was rape or there was no violence, assault is assault and is still damaging. Your body was being invaded. You were being manipulated the entire time that led up to the assault. And you were scared.
There are so many stories about victim blaming that have been written already, but I thought I would finally contribute to the discussion since my blog is one that I have made a point to touch upon topics such as this.
Amber Skye Forbes, Author of When Stars Die, a YA Paranormal