Picture this situation. You are in a night walk and you’re checking out the internet on your smartphone. It’s kind of a dangerous neighborhood. A stranger comes, takes your mobile from you and run away. There is more people around the scene, they see it all happening. You ask for help, but they say the whole thing is actually your fault. Why? You shouldn’t be using your cellphone in that neighborhood at night. You caused the situation, so shame on you my friend. The thief just did what you were almost asking him to do, it’s not his fault.
Does it sound fair? I think it doesn’t. The same applies for victims of sexual assault. Should a victim of sexual violence be blamed because she was drunk? Should she be blamed because she was flirting or wearing short skirts? Well, I think she shouldn’t, but some researches show that many people across the world think the opposite of me.
A recent study conducted by Datafolha in Brazil pointed that 1 in 3 Brazilians think that sometimes rape incidents are the victims fault. In the study, 30% of the people surveyed agreed with a statement that read “women wearing provocative clothes can’t complain if they get sexually assaulted”. Shockingly, both women and men surveyed agreed with this sentence equally. What’s more, 37% agreed that women who dress up “properly” -whatever that means - are not raped.
In the UK, a survey ran last year by the The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that more than a quarter of the public believed that victims of rape or sexual assault who were drunk are at least partly responsible for what happened to them. The percentage is a bit higher among 16 to 19 years old. In this age group, 34% said that a victim’s drunken state made them “completely”, “mostly” or “a little” responsible. Not enough? More than a third of the people surveyed said victims were partially responsible if they had been “flirting heavily” beforehand. Same thing in Canada, according to a research conducted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 1 in 5 survey respondents said women may provoke sexual assaults by being drunk.
This culture of victim-blaming and shaming affects the number of women that end up reporting sexual assaults. If you think that sexual assaults statistics in your region are awfully high, imagine that it could be even higher if all victims decided to report it. Let me give you an example, a study conducted last year by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said that 49% of college students didn’t report a rape incident to the school administration because they thought they were partly at fault or they would be partially blamed for it.
Victims need to be supported, not blamed. No one wants to be a victim of a sex crime, no matter if she was drunk, if she was flirtatious at some point, if she was wearing a mini-dress or all of the above. The victim is not to be culprit, and it’s time to rebuild this culture of victim-blaming and shaming.
*Header image by Cai Meng/ China Daily