Editorial: sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere

When it comes to sexual assault or harassment, there is no such thing as a “perfect” victim.  Nothing is black and white.  Anyone can be assaulted and no victim of any assault should be blamed.  Men and women of all races, religions, nationalities and socioeconomic statuses are at risk of rape because no one has inherent immunity.

The fact that the idea of a standard “victim profile” for cases of rape exists is telling of blatant rape culture.  No other crime profiles or shames its victim as much as rape.  A girl wearing a skirt to a party and getting raped is frequently compared to actions like a bank leaving its safes unlocked and getting robbed, or wearing a meat dress in a shark tank and getting bitten.  

“She was asking for it,” is the common phrase, and what an insensitive, untrue phrase it is.  Comparing a human being to a building that is only good for storing money is a continued acceptance of the idea that women are property; that they do not have their own autonomy.  

There are two major issues with these comparisons.  

Firstly, the standards for what clothing is considered sexual in nature are arbitrary and have changed drastically over the centuries.  In medieval France, it would have been revealing for a woman to show her hair in public.  In colonial Europe, showing legs even with hose and bloomers still on was risqué.  The 1920s saw hemlines increase almost up to the knees, which would have been nearly blasphemous twenty years prior.  

But society today doesn’t concur that if someone walks about with ankles bare and hair flowing in the wind he or she deserves to be raped.  What someone wears or even how someone behaves is not an excuse to attack him or her and certainly not tools with which to blame him or her if attacked.

Secondly, comparing men (or any attacker) to a shark in a feeding frenzy would suggest that these people, particularly men, can’t control themselves and are slaves to their libidos, regardless of whatever consequences that may bring.  It’s the same as the “boys will be boys” argument.  

This comparison also implies that women are expected to be the adults, the bigger person, by sitting back and taking whatever comes their way because they’re too ladylike and simultaneously too weak to prevent it.  And lest we forget that men can be raped too, by either sex, this phrase also implies that men are superior and incapable of being attacked in such a way.  It is sexist on every front.

The best way to prevent sexual assault is to attack the rape culture that exists all over the world.  This way, the disease, rather than symptoms — or worse, the pseudo-symptoms like arguments used in victim blaming — is stopped.  

Don’t tell them that wearing what makes them feel good is the price they pay for assault.  Don’t persuade them that women are the only ones allowed to be victims of sexual violence.  Don’t teach them that men are to be feared and that women are inherently weak.  

Instead, raise your children to respect others’ bodies and wishes.  Educate them on the importance of consent.  Teach them to defend themselves so they have a way to protect themselves in a situation that requires it.  And if anyone you know is ever handling sexual assault, be a friend, a parent or a partner who is supportive of the victim’s recovery.  

Treat it like any other crime: report it and remind the victim that he or she did nothing wrong, that they did nothing to provoke this, and that it’s nothing that makes him or her any less worthy of self-care and love.  If everyone does this, we can start a revolution in the way the world views rape cases and its victims.

Photo taken from Flickr.

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