Victim Blaming:The Stigma Around Sexual Assault

These phrases perpetuate victim blaming and rape culture.

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

Infographic Courtesy of the Center of Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children

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.

Photo Courtesy of The Jakarta Post

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!
    • Tarana Burke (MeToo Movement Founder) Twitter
    • It’s On Us (Movement to End Sexual Assault)
    • Our Resilience (Supports and Empowers Sexual Assault Survivors)
    • RAINN (Largest Anti-Sexual Violence Organization)

Sexual Assault Survivors Are #NOTGUILTY


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  1. April 26, 2019 by Sheena.Kwon

    This is a similar topic to my presentation so I really liked that you had a different approach to it! I liked that you included ways you can help survivors and lower the stigma behind sexual assault. I also wonder how you can get involved in your community to make a change within the way society affect survivors. There are too little shelters and a sparse amount of awareness and it would be really cool to see how one can combat that through having large scale meetings with people who need to be informed!

    • April 27, 2019 by Anna.Lee

      Hi Sheena!
      I’m glad we both had similar topics so we can raise awareness about this issue! I think it’s really interesting how you bring up the lack of shelters because I think this is another great way to support survivors which I hadn’t thought about. I definitely thinking spreading awareness is key because it is a necessity in order to change a culture!

  2. April 26, 2019 by Vedica.Chopra

    This is a great presentation and I think that your call to action is very relevant! Some things need to change on a smaller level, and I feel like victim blaming is definitely an issue in which individual action is necessary, because the small actions can lead to the bigger problem. Are there also community or school initiatives that can help with this issue? I feel that high school students make these kinds of jokes out of ignorance, not malice. Regardless of the reason, though, it can be very damaging. But maybe improving education on sexual assault and consent might help people be aware of the issue and avoid making light of it. I liked the infographic you included and I think that it gave an interesting perspective on rape culture in everyday things!

    • April 27, 2019 by Anna.Lee

      Hey Vedica!
      I totally agree with you that small actions are extremely important to address and fix a problem. I think schools and communities can take initiative by stepping up and having a strong stance against sexual assault and have conversations with members of their local community in order to raise awareness. I agree that jokes are usually made out of ignorance and not from malice, so I think having conversations with people would help them become aware of how impactful their words and speech can be. You bring up a great point of improving education on sexual assault and consent in order to shed more light on this issue!

  3. April 27, 2019 by Veronica Kruschel

    Anna, this is a wonderful presentation! The entirety of it is well structured, easy to read and understand, and your writing is eloquent. (Your writing really brought this presentation to life; it’s beautiful and evocative without sounding pretentious.) Your work is concise and clear and you give the necessary context for a wide variety of people to be able to understand and connect with the information you’re sharing. I enjoyed listening to the video clip you included; you explain things well and the details that you include are interesting. The topic you chose is an important one, and the struggle against rape culture and victim blaming is universal. You do a good job presenting the issue and explaining why you chose the issue and why it matters, as well as giving ideas for how someone can help sexual assault survivors and the steps someone can take to help reduce stigma and work to end rape culture. I also like your interactive piece (following people on Twitter) because that connects people to the issue in the long term, and their engagement doesn’t end when the conference does. By following one or more people or movements, a person gets involved in the issue and is hence more likely to take action. You maintain a respectful tone throughout but are also passionate and engaging. Overall, your presentation is efficient, enjoyable, and educational.

    • April 28, 2019 by Anna.Lee

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Veronica!

  4. April 28, 2019 by Jill Roberts

    Hi Anna! We have similar presentations, but I love how you focused yours on victim blaming and how such blaming perpetuates rape culture. Under your Call To Action section, I really appreciated your inclusion of social media. Too often, I think we can forget how social media normalizes certain behaviors and how we can dissociate and ignore certain damaging behaviors through the illusionary lens social media offers. Overall, your writing is beautiful and poignant and your articulation of ideas/thoughts/concepts is done extraordinarily eloquently!

    • April 29, 2019 by Anna.Lee

      Hey Jill! I definitely agree how sometimes we forget how social media normalizes behaviors. I think it’s a really interesting point how you bring up disassociation and and ignoring damaging behaviors through using social media!

  5. April 28, 2019 by Caroline.Cummins

    Anna, your presentation is extremely interesting. You clearly are passionate about this topic and about changing the stigma surrounding it. This is very apparent in your presentation. I think the part that is the most important about your presentation and something that you did an amazing job emphasizing is the effect of social media. I really appreciated this aspect because I think often times we, in our generation of time, are so caught up in our phones and our social media accounts when in reality there is so much going on within those accounts that we do not notice. I think this is such a vital piece to your presentation because it can be such an easy change for our generation since we already use it so much. Sexual assault survivors are definitely #notguilty.

    • April 29, 2019 by Anna.Lee

      Hi Caroline! I like how you bring up the effect of social media and I think it’s important for us to recognize our use of social media!

  6. May 09, 2019 by Nalana

    Guys will always say we wanted or its what we deserved but that’s not true. We don’t ask for any of it and we are always to scared to tell. We think no one will believe us but they do. I didn’t think they would believe me i thought they would say the same thing the guy randy said but it finally got to bad and i couldn’t take it anymore so i told. I was scared at first but then he got arrested and got 24 to life and i’m now happy. So if anyone’s reading this and hasn’t told you need to. Don’t be afraid people will believe you and whatever happening will stop. i was scared at first to but telling really helped me. I have never regreted my decision and i never will. So good luck

  7. May 12, 2019 by Rin Zoot

    Hi Anna, I like how short your website is, as it doesn’t overcomplicate things and gives a clear and simple presentation of your topic. The images you use (especially with the hand on the words one it) are very powerful and support your cause. I think your call to action is very informative and interesting.

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