Recently, a woman in a Gurgaon restaurant was all over the social media. No, she did not win the lottery. She slut shamed two girls for wearing short clothes. Oh and she did not stop there. She gathered the men in that restaurant and urged them to rape these girls because apparently their short shorts meant that they deserved it.
This is yet another prime example of the prevalent rape culture in our society. What makes this episode even more horrific is the fact that such an attitude and behavior was shown by a woman against two other women who must be about her daughter’s age.
Stay in well-lighted areas, away from dark alleys;
Avoid shortcuts through parks, vacant lots and other deserted places;
Don’t use headphones while walking alone;
Don’t use mobile phones, they can prove distracting;
If possible, avoid walking alone, and so on and so forth.
These are some of the preventive measures suggested for women to follow in order to avoid being raped. These are the universal safety tips. But do you know what is wrong with them? The narrative such guidelines set. Because if you get raped now, it must be your fault. The guidelines warned you, right?
How stupid of you to not follow them? Well, you didn’t follow them and that’s why it happened!
What were you doing there late at night? Why were you using your phone? You must have encouraged the man somehow. What were you wearing? Were you out drinking? Did you fight back? Oh, you could have fought back more. But then maybe you were asking for it.
The tendency to blame victim is programmed in people’s head from the very basic level of understanding. It is the common belief that good things happen to good people and if bad things are happening to you, then you must have done something wrong to invite the wrath of the universe.Rather than rejecting their comforting world view which suggests good is rewarded and evil punished, people tend to do what comes naturally to them in such circumstances. They blame the victim.
Victim blaming is known to shift the focus from the perpetrator to the victim. Such a narrative puts victims at fault when it should have been the criminals. It tells the victims that their choices were naïve, foolish, dangerous and wrong in some manner. It marginalizes the survivors of assault and abuse which sets a trend, a trend which makes it difficult for the victims to come forward and report the crime.
An analysis by LiveMint shows that an estimated 99.1% of sexual violence cases are not reported.Now, this is just about sexual violence. This data does not include other cases such as domestic violence, female foeticide, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, among others.
Before the situation worsens, it is time for the society as a whole to accept its responsibility towards the victims. It is time for each of us to realize that headphones don’t rape women, nor do short skirts, or dark streets, or clubs, or alcohol, or parties, or sleepovers, or school uniforms. None of these rape women. Rapists do. And it is time that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.
You promote victim blaming and rape culture every time you say boys will be boys or that a woman was asking for it because of reasons a plenty. So, stop!
Instead of asking what she was wearing or what she was doing out late at night, ask more questions about why perpetrators keep on committing crimes. Ask what can be done to stop them from doing the heinous instead of asking women to not get raped.