Gentlemen – victim blaming is an evil we need to stand against. This is not a war women should have to wage alone.
(Trigger warning: discussions about sexual assault and rape)
I read about the #Justice4Daisy case today. You should as well. Daisy herself has written an eye-opening, brutally honest article about the atrocity she had to endure. You owe it to the women in your life to read it, to know what half of the world’s population has to face every day.
This is a sensitive topic, and I want to try and navigate it carefully. This is my first attempt writing on the subject, so please forgive me if I frame anything in a way that is offensive.
It should be common sense that when someone is a victim of sexual assault or rape, they are not to blame. When a crime is committed against your body, when your life is changed forever by an act most abhorrent, culpability lies with the offender, not you as the victim.
I say it “should be common sense”, because as we have seen in the case of Daisy Coleman, many do not think and act this way. While I could rail against this way of thinking forever and a day, that is not exactly what I want to do here. What I want to do is suggest an argument that I haven’t yet heard in this debate.
Men: when someone blames a woman, a victim, for a sexual assault committed against them, it is not just an act that further hurts someone who is already hurting. We as men lose an element of our own agency. When someone tries to blame the victim for being sexually assaulted, to divert guilt away from a man who has committed a crime, one of the outcomes is that the autonomy of men everywhere is diminished.
Let me put it another way: to suggest that a victim somehow influenced her assailant enough to cause the attack, suggests that men intrinsically cannot control themselves. Whenever the ludicrous arguments are made that a sexual assault was caused in part by what a woman was wearing, or how she was acting, it not only demeans her, consigns judgement to her entire gender, but also suggests that such petty things as clothing can reduce men to criminals.
It should not be acceptable for any man that these attacks occur against the women in our lives. But it should also not be acceptable that, when apologies are made for someone who has committed a sexual assault, or when society blames a victim, that part of the narrative is that the man was not able to help their behaviour. That, no matter their age, there is an assumption that, given the right “circumstances” caused by a woman, men will break the law and assault women.
Stopping attacks against women needs to start with a conversation involving men. While the overwhelming majority of men are kind hearted, and not criminals, the overwhelming majority of these attacks against women are conducted by our gender.
We should all consider ourselves feminists. Men and women should be standing together to fight patriarchal norms. The pervasive, corrosive culture that blames victims for their own attack is so atrocious for the women around us. It is also bad for men. If we are told we cannot control our basic urges, how can we ever consider ourselves adults? How can we consider ourselves responsible for any of our actions?
We are empowered as individuals when we can control our future. Anyone who tries to take that control away from us, or from others, tries to take away our power. Society loses respect for us. Worse, when we do not think we control our own actions, we lose respect for ourselves.