What is victim blaming?
Victim blaming occurs when the victim of sexual assault is blamed and accused of being at fault rather than the perpetrator of the crime. Sexual assault occurs when someone does not consent or is unable to consent to a sexual act done to them.
The Stigma Surrounding Sexual Assault
Throughout Abnormal Psychology, we have learned about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how it affects individuals, society, and culture. Not only is there a stigma around just the word mental illness, but there is often a stigma associated with being sexually assaulted. Societies often perpetuate a “rape culture” where sexual violence is glamorized and normalized by the media. This culture excuses sexual violence against women through the use of misogynistic language and the objectification of women’s bodies. This creates an environment where women’s rights are violated without consequence and their safety is jeopardized daily.
Additionally, people blame victims because it helps them rationalize the world and supports the belief that they cannot be harmed because they are not like the victim. This distances themselves from the experience someone has faced as well as shows the lack of empathy people have for those who have survived sexual assault.
Why should you care?
The purpose of my catalyst conference is to educate youth about the stigmatism of sexual assault and how society perpetuates a culture of victim blaming. I felt inspired by the ever growing numbers of women and men who have spoken up and out about their sexual assault. Additionally, current movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have shone a spotlight on these issues and have begun to catalyze change. I find that it is inexcusable to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator and this motivates me to bring change to my local community. I want everyone to feel like they can stand up for themselves and fight against the “social norm” and find their own, inner strength. Sowing these seeds of awareness will help catalyze change at my local, community level and help others become more aware of social justice issues around them.
Call to Action
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”– Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Changing how sexual assault is perceived will not change over night and neither will the ending of rape culture. There is not a singular, perfect solution, but just having conversations about victim blaming will raise awareness about the stigma of sexual assault and the impact of rape culture has. People may perpetuate rape culture subconsciously and having people more aware about what they say and how impactful their words are will promote a healthier and safer environment. I chose Sustainable Development Goal 16 because it promotes peace, justice, and strong institutions. Ending sexual violence is imperative in achieving that goal to ensure societies can protect people from all walks of life. Rapists need to be persecuted and held accountable for their atrocious crimes; justice must be served. Sexual assault survivors should not have to worry about living in a society where they are ostracized. They deserve to have a peaceful life where they can count on the judiciary and police to protect them rather than being corrupt institutions.
Support the survivors! Listen to them and believe them. This conveys messages of support while allowing them to feel comfortable enough to speak up against the perpetrator.
Think about social media! Become more aware how social media portrays sexual violence and spreads the stigma of being sexually assaulted. Think about how social media perpetuates stereotypes of women and men. Are you watching or seeing phrases or images which joke about sexual assault and normalize it? If so, say something! Rape jokes mock and trivialize a horrific scenario and only serve to normalize an awful situation.
Sit down and talk with your friends! This raises awareness of how victims are blamed for their own sexual assault and draws attention to the issue rather than sweeping it under the rug. Help them become more self-aware about their words and actions and how impactful they can be. They can make a difference in the world whether it is helpful or harmful, and it is imperative for them to become more aware of themselves and those around them. Additionally, educate them about the importance of consent because no means no and nothing changes that.
Do not be a bystander! Rape culture and victim blaming cannot change unless there is a conscious effort to do so. Doing nothing is the same as perpetuating rape culture and victim blaming because you are allowing it to happen. If you see something, say something and stand up for what you believe in!
Catalyze change within your community! Educate your friends, family, and neighbors! Having conversations with people at school or at assemblies are great ways to bring awareness to large groups of people! You can also go to town halls and speak on the issue of sexual assault and the stigma around it. This brings the issue directly towards your local government and gives you a platform to speak to the general public! Additionally, you can call and email your Senators or Representatives or even send them a letter! Their official website with their contact information is readily available on House.Gov or Senate.Org!
- Feeling inspired? Follow these people and movements for more information!