The Impact of Victim Blaming

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by Kaitlin Petkovich

Kaitlin Petkovich is a Criminology student at Wilfrid Laurier University, taking courses that place an emphasis on women’s rights. She hopes to become a prosecutor in the future. Kaitlin is an animal rights activist and feminist. She enjoys spending time with her dog, Sprinkle, and is an avid reader.

It is early in the evening, but moderately dark outside. You are walking home from work; it is not a far walk. You  are enjoying the fresh air. There are other people on the street with you, some of them are also walking home, and some of them are walking their dogs. It is a pleasant evening. You are nearly home.

Suddenly, a stranger jumps out from an alleyway, holding a gun. He aims it at your head.

“Give me your wallet, and I want your phone.”

You can feel your heart pounding; the only emotion you feel is fear.

“Do it now. Do it and I won’t shoot you.”

You fumble for your wallet, and shakily remove your watch and hand it to him.

“I told you, I want your fuckin’ phone”, he presses the gun against your forehead. You feel faint. You grab your phone from your pocket and hand it to him.

The moment the phone is in his hands he runs off. You’re left standing in the street, shaking. You take a moment, to calm your breathing. You run to the closest police station, when you enter, the following conversation occurs.

rape-analogy

This is what victims of sexual assault often face when they disclose to friends, family, or helping professionals.

Questions like: “What were you wearing?”, “How much did you have to drink?”, and “Have you had sex before?”

All of these questions blame the victim and they contribute to rape culture. When we don’t put the blame of sexual assault onto perpetrators, it creates an  antagonizing environment. It also makes it easier for abusers to continue abusing.

If a survivor of sexual assault wanted to report and the crime was treated the way the mugging victim was, it is more than likely the officer’s behaviour would prevent the survivor from reporting. If the sexual assault case receives a trial, the victim must face questions akin to the ones above, in a public courtroom, in front of the press, family members, and the abuser. The survivor will have to recount the event(s), this can cause further trauma. The way the system handles sexual assault cases contributes to the 78% of rapes that go unreported

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Lilly, a sexual assault survivor and creator of survivorsupport.tumblr.com, has provided an answer as to why she did not report her rapists to the police. “I did not want to report any of my rapists, because I know that rapists rarely spend a single day in jail. I knew that I would be blamed for what took place, for what they did to me… Reporting would make me too suicidal.”

She is correct, only 0.003% of perpetrators are convicted. Victim blaming not only harms survivors, but it ensures that rapists go free. The victim blaming makes survivors so scared to report.

To clarify; there is nothing wrong with not reporting. Reporting or not reporting is the survivor’s choice; it is not a matter of “right” or “wrong”. If a major factor in the decision is like Lily describes “reporting will damage my mental health, and making the trauma public will result in bullying, and those I am reporting the crime to will not take me seriously” then the system needs to change.

TBTN Poster English FINAL 2015Events like Take Back the Night, a yearly march organized by SACHA, create a space for survivors to speak out and be heard. TBTN empowers survivors and for some, it is a huge step in the healing process. The walk includes music, dancing, performers, sign making, giant puppets, and validation!

TBTN is September 17th, 2015 at 6:00PM. Survivors and their supporters march as a way of supporting each other and to take up space..

TBTN provides empowers survivors. It is a great way of meeting new people who can help provide support that person may not have had otherwise.

Speaking out against victim blaming is essential. SACHA is a crucial member of the elimination of victim blaming.

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