We’re told “don’t blame the victim” and for the most part I agree with that. No one really asks to be robbed or burglarized or assaulted. Where I do have an issue with that phrase is when someone tries to understand how the victim might not have become a victim in the first place they get accused of “victim shaming” or “blaming the victim”. I don’t think we are doing that when we dissect a scenario in an effort to learn from it. Take the victim from this article, there are things to be learned from her case.
She was at a party where she decided to stay sober. She fell asleep in a room with a few other people who had been at the party.
She suddenly was awakened by a sexual touch.
She says she awoke with a start but then accepted the touch, she is clear to say she consented to the touch and wanted it. She began touching back. She thought it was her boyfriend this was occurring with but found shortly after that it wasn’t. It was another man. He had not said he was her boyfriend so was not seeking to deceive her with words. She wanted the touching because she thought one thing but he had not tried to trick her into thinking that.
I don’t think I’m shaming her, or blaming her, when I point out that step one in avoiding this is not having sex in a room full of people. Second is to look before you leap. If you know you are in a room with other people it seems a good idea to look about. If you are being touched it seems like a good idea to see the face of that person if you care who it is. These seem like simple steps to take for a sober person who says that she wanted the action to take place, just not with that particular partner.
You can’t always prevent being a victim but there are things you can do to make it less likely.
I personally feel a fellow should take these precautions so he doesn’t become a victim. I personally think a woman should be okay looking at a situation and assessing the potential dangers. It isn’t shaming anyone to say, hey, next time, maybe look around or in this case say “hey, let’s go to the bedroom instead of doing it here in front of everyone” and as soon as you all got up to go to that bedroom the error would have been revealed.
Having some situational awareness and preparation is wise.
It isn’t being cruel to analyze a situation and learn from it. That’s not what victim shaming and blaming is. But it gets called that nonetheless and I think that’s a shame. In this particular case it’s tough to say she was really a victim, at least not in any legal sense. But in some cases, like a violent sexual assault, we know that the woman isn’t to blame. But saying she would have been safer had she been with friends, stayed in well traveled areas, carried a gun, etc. isn’t saying she’s to blame for the rape. She didn’t do that. It’s not the same as saying a woman who dresses sexy “was asking for it”.
Women who complain about those who try to find out what could have been done differently are setting aside what might be valuable information that protects potential victims and prevents them from becoming victims in the first place. The real shame is on those who don’t take the time to really understand the motive behind the information or what can be learned from a bad situation to hopefully keep it from happening to others. That’s the real shame.
“I was like, ‘I feel violated. This feels wrong. But I don’t know if it’s illegal.’” This woman’s case has exposed a loophole in rape laws.