TW: rape, sexual assault.
Anyone who has seen an episode of Law and Order: SVU knows that rape cases are complicated and victims/survivors are often the ones put on trial. And we don't need TV to tell us victim blaming happens. Even if you don’t recognize it by that name, women are constantly held accountable for being harassed or assaulted. From street harassment to sexual assault and rape, the victims and survivors are taking the blame more often than the rapists themselves.
And society at large isn’t the only system working against the victim - our legal system isn’t set up to defend them either. It gives the benefit of the doubt to the defendant (the rapist defending himself), which is certainly important since putting an innocent person in jail would be terrible - but when statistics show that only 2-8% of reported rapes are false accusations, it's not justifiable to treat every survivor as if she's the one at fault. The accused have a right to fair trial, but it’s time we start protecting the victims and survivors too.
Gina Tron of Vice writes about her personal experience of being raped and then filing a report and trying to go to court. She was drunk, out with her friends, and her rapist invited her to do coke with him. After she followed him out to his car, he locked the doors, refused to let her out, and brought her to his apartment.
“I told him repeatedly that I didn’t want to have sex with him and that I wanted to go back to my friends. There was no ambiguity about the situation at all. I spent a lot of time pushing him off me. He threatened to kill me. He punched me. He pulled my hair when I tried to get away. Every time I told him to stop, he slapped me in the face. He repeatedly called me a "bitch" and a "whore." He ordered me to shut the fuck up. I ended up begging for my life. I even offered him money if he would just please not hurt me. The worst part of the ordeal was having to look at the massive “666” tattoo on his lower abdomen. I ran away as soon as I felt I had the opportunity to do so. He chased after me.”
She was scared to go to the police, but after encouragement from a friend, she went to the precinct about 24 hours later and had a rape kit done. It turns out her rapist was a serial rapist and the police were able to identify him from her description, allowing for an arrest.
Following this, an officer interrogated Tron about what she was wearing and why she didn’t try to escape earlier. The defense attorney found a number of drawings and photographs on the internet that “proved” that Tron enjoyed rough sex. These images really had nothing to do with the case, or sex, so how twisted is it that they were used against a rape survivor? This is horrible.
Tron writes that eventually, her case was thrown out, because “they apparently thought I hadn’t fought back enough and I wasn’t bruised enough and I didn’t go to the police soon enough.” She even lost friends because of the case.
You might be rubbing your eyes right now, thinking that figure has to be wrong. Nope. 97 fucking percent. This shocking infographic from The Enliven Project puts that into perspective:
3% of men also report being raped, but there's an even lower reporting rate among them because of this shame and blame game.
Posters read: ' "How can a girl rape a boy?" - Nearly everyone I tried to tell for the first four years after it happened,' and ' "Man Up." - My then-fiance in response to the panic attack I was having, caused by seeing my rapist for the first time since the incident had occurred eight years previous.'
When are people going to recognize that no means no and no person should be held responsible for whether they get raped? Whatever they're wearing, wherever they are. In fact, the tragedy of sexual assaults happening every year in the military (16,500 rapes reported in 2011, with an estimated only 10-20% reporting rate) stands to prove that. These are women trained in combat, strong, and incredibly brave, yet they're still being raped and our society and legal system are totally failing them.
Although it’s painful to talk about, we need to start discussing rape culture and stop blaming the victims and survivors. We maintain the “innocent until proven guilty” idea for perpetrators, so why do we write off victims as guilty immediately?
How can we work to change the legal system for the benefit of rape victims, both civilian and military? Do you think we need more legal change or social change?
If you or someone you know is in need of support due to assault or harassment, contact the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.