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The Demonization of Female Rape Victims

todayFebruary 12, 2016 139 1

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By Chelsea Moran
Blog Content Contributor

Photo By Richard Potts via Flickr
Photo By Richard Potts via Flickr

As many may know, there have been recent reports of sexual assault on the Texas State campus. Unfortunately, there’s also an added consequence that many may not know that tends to follow the victim, the demonization of the victim.

A female student reported that she was sexually assaulted on two separate occasions by two different males inside the dorms of College Inn and Arnold Hall. The two males have been identified and are currently under investigation by the Texas State University Police Department and university Title IX  coordinator. When an email like this from University News Services gets sent out, it’s expected that the entire student body is going to be discussing it. However, I find that more students are talking about it under their breath rather than saying something about it out loud. The same day the email was sent out, several disturbing things were brought to my attention in discussion. The harshest, and what I believe to be the most unfair, thing said was, “For it to happen twice like that the girl must have done something to egg the guy on. Like, it’s her fault.” It’s opinions like this that are held by some members of the student body that make this an important topic of discussion.

When a female is sexually assaulted, one of the things she gets asked is what she was doing to make her attacker rape her. Maybe her clothes were too revealing. Maybe she shouldn’t have been drinking at the party. Maybe she shouldn’t have been flirting with the guy in the first place. Maybe she shouldn’t have been dancing in a way that made the boys look at her. As though doing any these things were consent enough for her body to be invaded against her will. These are excuses used to blame the victim of their assault when it is no way their fault. One opinion of a male student I discussed this with was that, “Women need to make proper judgement and know to leave a situation if it feels uncomfortable or something. Women need to act more conservative and think about what they may attract if they go out dressing and acting some type of way.” Out of the six students I discussed this with, three of them had this same opinion and two of those three were female. The thought that lingered on my mind as they told their opinions was that none of this actually mattered.

Regardless if a female is half naked or fully covered, she still runs the risk of getting cat called, harassed and/or assaulted every time she steps outside simply because she is a female. We may have varying opinions about how to dress our bodies but our bodies are just that, ours. Every woman should have the right to dress her body as she sees fit without the ramifications of being body shamed or told that it’s her fault if something happens to her. A night of fun can turn sour in a blink of an eye and there may not be any warning signs or the situation may not feel uncomfortable until it’s too late. For example, if you follow the Bobcat Heard on Yik Yak you may have seen a yak by a student who said they had been raped by their best friend after a night of partying and didn’t know what to do or how to tell said friend what happened because the next morning the friend claimed to not remember anything. In this case, the victim was not only with someone they fully trusted but they weren’t even the overly drunk one in the situation and they still got demonized, blamed and shamed into thinking that what happened to them was somehow their fault.

In this day and age, rape has become an underground culture that, for the most part, gets glossed over because victims are made to feel ashamed of what happened to them while their rapist and attackers go free and unreported which the victim also gets blamed for. For those who don’t understand, it can be difficult for a victim to report their sexual assault because they fear the stigmatism that’s associated with this type of crime. In addition to the scrutiny that their sexual history falls under, they also now have to worry about being judged by the entire student body, faculty and others who now strictly view them as a rape victim. In other cases, victims may be slut shamed and viewed as overly promiscuous and all of this makes them more reluctant to come forward.

I believe that the case of this specific mindset where the girl is not only the victim but the one at fault originates from the childhood cliche that “boys will be boys” and girls just have to deal with it. The spoken word poem titled, Bois Will Be Boys, describes the origin of the issue at hand when it states, “Her self respect will never be an obstacle because she was taught that when a boy hits you on the playground, it means he likes you, when a girl says no, she’s only playing hard to get, when she cries, screams, begs for forgiveness, you must silence her words with your tongue because taking her breath away means I love you…” Too often we were told these lines growing up and too often, now, they are unconsciously taken out of context and made into reality. Some girls are in abusive relationships where they are repeatedly assaulted but they stay because, “boys will be boys.” They truly believe that they are being assaulted out of love, that they did something to bring it on themselves, that the more they suffocate, the better the affection.

Some questions to keep in mind:

  1. Should women be forced to adjust their appearance and behavior to avoid unwanted sexual attention?
  2. In any case, is it the girl’s fault that she’s been assaulted or is it society’s fault for teaching girls to behave in such a way that revolves around the male attitude toward women?
  3. If the victim of a sexual assault was a female child, would you still proceed to ask her what she did wrong or what she was wearing?
  4. If the victim were male, would anyone think to question if his clothing or actions lead his attacker on?

If the issue that is rape on college campuses continues to go unacknowledged or put on the back burner, then victims will never know justice or feel at peace. We as a community must first open the dialogue in order to make a change, keep our campuses safe and learn how not to ostracize the victim.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, know that the attacker is the only person to blame in the situation. Know that there are resources to help you. If you need someone to talk to in confidence, the Texas State Counseling Center is free. If you would like to report an assault, contact the Texas State UPD or Title IX, where you can report a crime anonymously if you wish.

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