When a woman decides to wear a tight dress out in public, it is her fault should she happen to be raped.
In addition, it is also the woman’s fault if has been drinking in public and in any quantity. There are, in fact, many other circumstances which can point to guilt on the woman’s part. Everything from clothing choices to her choice of company or even how many sexual partners she has had in the past. It’s not the man’s fault for raping a woman when so much is at play.
Now let’s talk about domestic violence. We have to consider that some women can really push a man’s buttons to the point of forcing a man’s hand. Other women are sometimes late with dinner or have served their partners’ cold mashed potatoes.
Do we expect that when women who do these things are hit that they do not bear some, or even all, of the blame?
This, my dear reader, is what in fact, America believes.
Approximately 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported to authorities. That means 70 percent did not feel they could come forward.
In regards to domestic violence 4,774,000 women in the United States annually are estimated to experience physical assault at the hands of their intimate partners. A whopping 75 percent of these go unreported.
But what often happens when these cases come to light and when these women do seek justice?
We downplay their predicament. We ask what clothing they had on and whether they’ve had rough sex before. We interrogate them and question their credibility and put many of their most private personal details on display. We play dumb. We don’t seek justice for them. We try to find loopholes in their story. A reason why it isn’t true. A reason why the man in question is a good guy. A decent guy. A guy who has been misaligned.
We can cast doubt on what consent even means. We doubt that the woman really meant it when she said, “no”. As if there were some other way to deny consent.
And If her saying, “no” means nothing to us, why would it mean anything to any would-be attacker?
The facts and the figures are there and they do not lie. When we have been victimized and go to seek remediation, it is an ordeal to face questioning and to be examined and put on trial as if we, ourselves, are the perpetrators of a crime. It is intimidating. And belittling.
It makes us sometimes doubt ourselves.
And even when we have crossed all our “t”s and dotted our “i”s, we still fear the real threat of character assassination. It is no wonder so many of us stay silent. And I fear that while we would never say any of my beginning statements outright, that we are saying them by our actions. And by what we don’t say.
But what happens when our little ones hear us talking about rape and domestic violence victims in such a disparaging way? What happens if our daughter grows up to be victimized by her partner? Will she feel that she can confide in us? Will she turn to us for help? Or will she cower in shame? And worse, will the abuse continue, unchecked?
Imagine this: a woman is walking down the street when a man comes up, grabs her purse and runs away. Do we stop the criminal and press charges or do we ask the woman whether she has ever given to charity before? Do we ask her whether she has ever helped the less fortunate with her money?
Do we feign confusion over whether she was really denying the man access to her money because, this one time, she gave money to her boyfriend? Do we scratch our heads and pretend that we’re not sure what has happened here? Do we ask her if she really wanted him to take her money? Do we ask if maybe he was confused? Or that perhaps she was teasing the burglar with her purse, leading him on, thinking she might give him a dollar?
Do we tell her that her screams meant nothing because people sometimes scream when they’re having fun?
We turn away from rape victims and from those who have been brutalized at home because it makes us uncomfortable. And it should make us uncomfortable. With the recent outrage over the light sentencing of Stanford student, Brock Turner, the shift against rape culture appears to be just beginning. But rape culture doesn’t just exist within the system of people who would protect a single person from receiving a heavier sentence.
It starts with you.
It starts with me.
It starts with us believing and supporting and seeking justice for those who have had violence perpetrated against them. Otherwise we may as well come out and say what we really believe: that sometimes a woman deserves to be hit or even raped.
What do you think?
Rosa Hopkins blog for www.lifeinsidethehouseontherock.com. She is a radio recording artist, singer-songwriter, musician, producer and co-founder of Great Commission Records. She lives in the hills of WV with her husband, miracle baby, Jack Russell and a shapeless hound named Lou.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.