Virginia Wood has a really interesting post on her blog about yet another form of blaming women for being raped.
This time it isn’t what she was wearing, what she had drunk, or her fantasies, but is actually her own history of trauma and her lack of awareness of her surroundings.
Many women have a history of trauma, and I can’t imagine there are any who are constantly aware of everything that’s going on around her. Neither of these make it her own fault if she is raped.
Similarly, even if you are aware of your surroundings and don’t ‘freeze’ when attacked, that is not necessarily enough to prevent rape. Virginia gives certain examples,
Maybe it was a “blitz attack”, which of course by definition would mean she wouldn’t have known she was even being attacked until she was already down. Or maybe her rapist had a weapon: I have to ask–do men really believe that a martial artist can kick a gun out of an attacker’s hand like good ol’ Chuck Norris on the teevee? And then there’s the rapist who comes in through the bathroom window in the middle of the night and has you under his control before you even wake up. Now how you gonna karate-kick his ass outta bed with your legs all tangled up in the kivvers? And then there was the woman I knew whose attacker told her if she cooperated, he wouldn’t harm the children sleeping in the next room: All the martial arts training in the world won’t trump that one.
Let us note that one in every six women in the U.S. will be assaulted in her lifetime. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s frequent enough to suggest that we are not, in fact, in control of our own destinies–at least not when it comes to rape. Indeed, that kind of thinking sounds to me like a form of privilege: The not-raped can believe they did/do something to earn/deserve that status (“I kicked the shit out of him!” or “I’m always aware of my surroundings.” Always? Really?). That kind of thinking allows the not-raped to feel safe and secure in the fantasy that “it will never happen to me” and to look down on victim/survivors as people who screwed up somehow.
Victim-blaming, even in this guise of scientific research, is rife. Somebody, somewhere is missing the fact that the person to blame for a woman being raped is the rapist. Always.
When I was at sixth-form college, two police officers came in to give us a talk about safety. The boys were sent to one room with a male police officer, to receive a talk about driving safely. The girls were sent to another room with a woman officer, to receive a talk about rape prevention.
Quite why the girls didn’t need to be given the same advice about safe driving was bewildering, but the weirdest thing was it was the girls being told how to prevent rape rather than the boys.
In that talk, we were told that 2 out of 3 rapes could have been prevented (by the victim). How’s that for victim-blaming? Imagine how that felt for rape survivors in that room! Being told by a cop that really they should have been able to do something about it was humiliating and vicious.
And what’s more, 3 out of 3 rapes could have been prevented – BY THE RAPIST NOT RAPING THEM. That is where the blame needs to be laid. Every rape that ever occurs could have not happened, if the perpetrator chose not to do it.
That is the point. Men can stop rape. They have to.