Victim Blaming and why we Shouldn't be Doing it
TRIGGER WARNING: discussion about sexual assault, rape, and physical/emotional abuse, so please read at your own risk
You can find your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) here, where you can talk to specially trained doctors, nurses, and support workers who will offer you medical, practical and emotional support. There is also my helplines tab at the top of the page if you need to speak to someone in regards to anything spoken about in this post
At the time of writing (June 2020), in recent weeks there has been a number of people I have seen online speaking out about their experience of sexual assault; particularly by those who say they have been sexually assaulted by someone in the public eye. I don't want to focus on any particular names here as they are currently just claims and I don't know the whole story, therefore feel I should not be putting any names on here. But when these people (and it is mostly women in this case) are speaking out about having been sexually assaulted, one thing they have in common is that there were people going out of their way to shame those people and telling them that it couldn't have happened because they were only providing their words and not any pieces of evidence. And the majority of those that were shaming these people were either men or fans of the person the victim had claimed to have been sexually assaulted by. And this really shocked and disgusted me. This isn't necessarily victim blaming, but they are still focusing their energy on trying to shame the victim and refusing to listen to their story and want to stick by the attacker. This is the wrong stance to take. Today I want to talk to you about victim blaming, what it is, and why we shouldn't be doing it.
The definition of victim blaming is "the perception that victims are culpable or responsible for their own fates. Attributions of responsibility typically focus on an action or behaviour of the victim that increases the risk of victimization". This means that if, for example, a woman was raped, if someone was to ask her what she was wearing, and she was to respond with, say, a skirt, if the person who asked the question then told her that next time she should maybe wear jeans or trousers, that would be victim blaming. This is because they are saying the reason she was raped was because she was wearing a skirt; when in actual fact it is not the item of clothing that leads to a woman, or anyone, being raped. It is the mindset of the attacker that leads to rape.
But I don't just want to talk to you today about victim blaming, I also want to speak about, like I said at the beginning of this post, the way in which society reacts when someone speaks out about someone who has been physically/emotionally/sexually abused by someone; particularly if said attacker is in the public eye. The problem when someone speaks out about someone in the public eye, is that that person often has thousands of followers who will defend them to the end of time, and in some cases, these followers are younger girls in their early teens who are not really that educated on these issues and wouldn't for a second think that their 'idol' could do even the slightest thing wrong, let alone abuse someone. It obviously isn't their fault they may be naive to these situations as they are still really young and I certainly wasn't really aware of any kind of abuse at that age.
But there are also the situations where a person in the public eye has followers who are older, who should know better, but stick up for them because, like I said above, they still can't comprehend the idea of this person doing anything wrong. They get angry and say the person who is speaking out about them is lying and say that they are jealous of their career and that claims like this could really damage their reputation and career. I agree that false claims of any kind of abuse can be damaging, however only a very small minority of claims are actually false, as seen in the image below:
As we can see in this image, only two in one thousand people are actually falsely accused of rape (although I do have to say for transparency reasons, this image was created in 2012 so this may not be a completely accurate representation of today). But we can also see from this image of the 998 people who are actually rapists, only one hundred are reported, thirty face trial, and ten are jailed. I don't think people understand the true courage it takes to speak out, whether publicly or privately, about being raped, especially when the statistics show that only 1% of those accused of rape actually go to jail. This can, in some ways, be made even more difficult when the attacker is in the public eye, has thousands of followers/fans, and has a lot of money/power to shut down these claims, whether they are true or not.
I am not going to say who, but there is a YouTuber I used to follow and recently (at the time of writing), at least two people have come forward, publicly, and have opened up to their experience of him sexually assaulting them a few years ago. Both have said there are other people he has done this to, although I am unaware of whether they have publicly/privately come forward or not. One of them said they were previously too scared to come forward because of his money and the power he has over her and that she only came forward in support of the other girl that came forward. This was trending on Twitter and what I saw was pretty much a 50/50 split between people choosing to believe the girls and people choosing to believe him. What really saddened and angered me most was that those who chose to stick and stand by him were, in most cases, men and were using such disgusting language towards these women, saying they were jealous of his following and that they wanted to try and make themselves relevant again, amongst many other nasty and horrible things. They were also getting angry about the fact that these girls were only talking about what had happened and weren't providing any evidence; yet when he released a statement about five days later (which was 100% written by a lawyer) and this didn't contain evidence, they didn't demand evidence from him and were still sticking by him. So why should the victim have to provide evidence (in the eyes of the public), yet the attacker doesn't? Do they not realise how hypocritical that is? Victims don't owe any of you an explanation and don't need to provide you with evidence of what happened. Their word should be enough (although obviously in terms of getting a conviction this is different), particularly as said person has been conveniently quiet on social media since the accusations, whereas another celebrity who was accused of sexual abuse spoke out a matter of hours later, and was able to provide evidence that it never happened. But either way, it is always important to listen to the victim's voice and take their side instead of immediately shutting them down and saying they're lying. Because it is quite clear that the vast majority of accusations are true and it is shocking that only a small minority of these face trial and go to jail.
So victim blaming. Why shouldn't we be doing it? Well, like I have shown you above, only an incredibly small minority of those accused of rape didn't actually do it. And due to what we have seen above with people taking the side of the abuser over the victim, this is likely part of the reason why only 10% of rapes are actually reported. Obviously there are other factors that go into this, such as being too scared to speak out, however there is also the fear of not being believed and having people take the side of the abuser. We need to start taking the side of the victim and encouraging people to speak out about their abuse in the hope that more convictions can occur.
Love Beth xx
DISCLAIMER: I have never experienced sexual abuse so if anything I have said in this post is incorrect or poorly worded, please let me know so I can change it. x