Revolution #280, September 16, 2012
RAPE is NEVER the Victim’s Fault
Andrea Strong is a Steering Committee Member of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women.
[Written after reading the letter, “I Still Don’t Call It Rape and the Weight of It Gets Heavier All the Time” from Abigail Lynn.]
These two pieces originally appeared online at stoppatriarchy.tumblr.com. Responses to either or both of these pieces, as well as letters telling further “Stories from the War Zone,” are strongly encouraged and can be sent to StopPatriarchy@gmail.com or submitted through the website StopPatriarchy.org.
Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. Let me repeat that: Rape is NEVER EVER EVER EVER the fault of the victim. If you were raped, suspect you were raped, or if you were coerced by words or charm or threat, and may not call it rape, but still feel violated, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.
We live in a RAPE culture, a culture where people think that rape has to do with sex. Rape has little to do with sex; it is about one person controlling another: whether through physical violence, emotional pressure, or leveraging of power or other social capital, to the point where the victim of the rape feels anything from humiliation all the way up to fear for their life as the dominant emotions. Any female, from the age of 6 months to 90 years old, of any nationality, from any walk of life, wearing any kind of clothing, doing any kind of work or activity (sometimes even sleeping in her own bed), is at risk. Any female in any physical environment, at any time of day or night, is at risk. It could happen in her own home, at a college frat party, at her kindergarten playground, at her church or temple, at her job, in her car, on the street, on the bus or subway, etc., etc., etc. The aggressor could be her boyfriend, her teacher, her priest, her husband, her friend, her date, a stranger, her employer, her boss, her client, her co-worker, even her father/brother/uncle/ or other family member, etc., etc., etc.
This idea that women that get raped somehow asked for it: by their dress, by their behavior, by the work that they do—like prostitution, or pornography, (or babysitting!!), those ideas are wrong. Let me be clear, they are wrong because morally it’s wrong, not to mention ludicrous, to blame a victim of a crime for the crime that someone else committed against them. BUT moreover, those ideas are wrong, meaning that those ideas don’t reflect reality; they don’t accurately describe why rapists rape women.
Remember that list of things to do to avoid being raped or assaulted? They include things like: don’t walk by yourself late at night, bring a whistle with you to blow if you get attacked, keep your car doors locked, check the back seat of your car when you’re getting into your car, never give a ride to a hitchhiker, etc. This is sound advice, and many of the points these lists make are important for women to follow. However, those lists can make it seem like rape is just some natural and permanent part of our landscape. “Now here’s Vanna with the forecast: Well Todd, it appears that there’s a big rape cloud threatening the area around Main St., so if you own a vagina, you’re gonna wanna lock your car doors, or better yet, just not go anywhere tonight if you don’t have to. Make sure you lock your doors tight if you live in that area!” How come they don’t give out a list similar to the ones that women get, but geared toward rapists and potential rapists??? Feel like raping a woman? Then you need to carry a whistle with you, and blow the whistle on yourself if you feel like raping your date.
We also have these ideas that only vile, evil, old, gross men are the rapists. Look around you the next time that you are in public. Realize that one out of every four women that you see has been raped. In the U.S. every two minutes a woman is raped. How many women is that? Who is it that’s doing all this raping??? The fact is, it isn’t mainly old gross evil men who are strangers to the women that they rape. 80% of women who are raped are raped by someone that they know, they probably trust, and maybe the woman even likes and admires him.
Most women that have been raped, sexually assaulted, or molested blame themselves, and it is UNACCEPTABLE that this culture reinforces patriarchal notions of blaming victims for the crimes that were done to them. Furthermore, if you know and trust someone, and they are already a part of your life, how the hell is that list going to help you? It won’t. The straight-up fact for women the world over is that we live in a world that degrades us simply on the basis of our gender. We didn’t do anything to deserve the kind of punishment and outright brutality that one can be dealt if one happens to be a woman. This is a painful fact…I think that many times women try to figure out what their “mistake(s)” were, so that they can feel some control or find some logic in the betrayal and the crime that took away their control and their choice. If we can find some way that we fucked up, then we can protect ourselves and prevent it the next time that it might happen. Or if we can figure out, “Why did I deserve this?” then we could avoid it by being a better “good girl.” But it’s just wishful thinking, it’s bullshit to try to think that way, to try to wrest power from a situation where one was deprived of power, in a culture where all women are subverted on account of their gender.
Women everywhere are under these common threats of violence, and it’s intensifying. There is no way to avoid a culture of rape, a society that has become saturated with porn, the sexualized degradation of women and young girls. People have to recognize that no amount of women blaming ourselves, blaming other women for their rapes, no amount of denial or avoidance is going to drown out the fact that half of humanity is under attack. There is a real need to stand up against this shit, and part of what can happen when you stand up against it is that you start to see more clearly where the blame actually lies, and you begin to gain the ability to put the blame firmly on the patriarchal society we live in, the culture it gives rise to, and the rapists it produces. A part of this fight to defeat the war on women has to include us telling ourselves, our friends, and any one that we meet that confides in us about a rape or sexual assault that IT IS NOT OUR FAULT!!! It is not said often enough, and we need to say it, firmly know it, and tell others…because part of how that internalized blame gets reinforced is through how society treats women after they are assaulted or raped. THEY NEED TO HEAR THE MESSAGE, LOUD AND CLEAR: IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. No more whispers—let’s shout it: RAPE IS NOT OUR FAULT!!!
Get out of the shame, and the blame, and all of those head games, and START FIGHTING TO STOP THE WAR ON WOMEN! And you will probably find that all the crap thoughts finally, finally, finally have somewhere to go, some fucking usefulness. And under all the weight of all that hurt and horror there is probably a wellspring of fury that is just a whisper…just a wisp. As you get further into this, the whisper grows, until the rage that you didn’t even identify as actual rage can get channeled into something really earthshaking. And there are so, so, so MANY of us, and this fury moves DEEP in us. And we aren’t getting angry just to feel better, or to try to get even, we are out fighting to create a world where women aren’t preyed upon; we are out to create a world without rape, a world where women are treated as HUMAN BEINGS in EVERY sphere of society. This is something that both women and men should welcome and actively foster. And all this is WELL worth fighting for.
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