I’m going to warn you now, this is probably going to turn into a bit of a rant.
This morning, I got up, sorted the kids out with breakfast, made myself a cup of tea and braced myself for the latest horrifying news on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I don’t really look forward to seeing what’s happened overnight, but I can’t help myself. I’m sure that there will come a day where something less awful has happened than the day before, but not so far. It’s been a pretty dark week thanks mostly to the new POTUS and his minions.
However, this morning’s outrage had nothing to do with the Angry Cheeto and his buddies. It was this, happily sitting on my FB feed, posted to someone’s page like, ‘Hey, this is an awesome idea’:
‘This piece of clothing prevents sexual assault.’ Umm, no it doesn’t.
You know what prevents sexual assault? People not sexually assaulting other people.
Men deciding that they don’t actually have the right to put their hands on a woman unless she wants them to. And so they don’t.
Imagine that. So simple. And yet somehow people just don’t seem to get it.
We’re so busy teaching girls how to avoid ‘getting themselves raped’ or assaulted, that we just don’t seem to have the time or energy to focus on what would really make a difference; teaching boys not to rape or sexually assault women.
These glorified chastity belts are yet another tool that makes women responsible for men’s behaviour. And it really pisses me off.
We’re told from a very young age just how careful we need to be. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t wear provocative clothes. Don’t drink too much. Don’t dance with men you don’t know. Don’t visit boys at home unless there are other people there. Don’t flirt. Don’t be a ‘dick tease’. Don’t be slutty.
The unspoken second sentence that goes with all of those don’ts is ‘Otherwise you’re asking for it’.
You’ve heard the variations: Well, what was she thinking, meeting up with a guy she hardly knew? Did you see how wasted she got that night? She was all over him at that party last week so what did she expect him to do when he took her home?
Victim blaming. It’s almost expected. And that is horrifying, when you actually stop to think about it.
Worse is when you hear it, as I have too many times, coming from the victim themselves: If only I hadn’t been so drunk. I shouldn’t have kissed him yesterday. I probably led him on a bit when I sent him those text messages. I should have stayed with my friends.
I’ve had friends say these things. I’ve had young women crying in my office over their list of ‘if onlys’. I’ve thought these things myself.
Because it’s so drummed into us that we have to protect ourselves. That it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t get assaulted or raped. That if it does happen, there’s something wrong with us and our behaviour as much as there is with the person who’s hurt us.
So now, all I see when I watch this video is another thing that we should be doing.
Another thing that can be added to the list of ‘if onlys’.
Another thing to be held against a rape victim when she’s testifying in court.
Another ‘Otherwise you’re asking for it’.
And it makes me feel sick.