Victim blaming of women gets men off the hook

"It’s an attitude common all over the world."


Why is it that when a man rapes a woman, it’s the woman’s fault and not the man’s?

This phenomenon is called victim-blaming, and is an attitude common all over the world, particularly manifested in cases of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual assault.

Two recent cases of gang-rape brought this attitude to light—first, the case in Tondo where the 16-year-old victim engaged in a drinking party with seven men; second, the horrific assault on a nine-year-old in Cebu by her 40-year-old uncle and six of his construction-worker mates.

The 16-year-old was blamed for putting herself in a risky situation, being the only female in a group of carousing men, and that she consented to the sex because she joined them in the first place knowing that could happen.

This is another way of saying that a group of men under the influence of alcohol cannot be trusted, that they turn into depraved monsters when drunk.

In the case of the nine-year-old, her uncle said she was seducing him by playing with his shorts and pulling them down, and by sitting on his lap. This presupposes that the girl at that very young age was performing a sexually overt act instead of playing a funny prank on her uncle. This is a far-fetched tumbling of the imagination and a stupid excuse on the incestuous rapist’s part. 

Victim-blaming contends that it is a woman’s responsibility to stay safe. Women are “told to change their own behavior in order to avoid being assaulted or raped,” says the Women’s Health Research Institute of Northwestern University. 

“Women are told repeatedly to dress less provocatively, drink less alcohol, and not put themselves in risky situations. This proliferates the belief that women are at fault when they are attacked, and leads to a lack of accountability for men.”

There we have the ‘why’ of victim-blaming of women: It absolves men of wrongdoing on their part. That is why they point the finger—“She was asking for it.” “She was a slut.” “She was stupid to have gone drinking with a group of men.” 

Most men who rape know what they do is wrong. In the Tondo and Cebu crimes, not all the suspects were found immediately and some are still at large, meaning that they fled punishment. 

But rapists don’t believe they are the problem. And if they aren’t the problem, then it’s the victim—the girl or woman—who is. Through victim-blaming, the perpetrator justifies his anti-social, misogynistic act. They shift the accountability onto the victim.

What’s difficult for women is that most rapes are committed not by violent strangers but by men known to them—relatives, people they consider friends. This is opportunistic rape that takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability.

Diana Scully’s ‘Understanding Sexual Violence’ (1990) found that “most rapes are the result of a ‘rape culture’ that tells men that, in many situations, raping women is not only normal behavior, but completely safe.” 

Because most rapes are not reported—likely because they are committed by men known to the women—men consider rape and harassment to be low-risk crimes they can get away with. 

This is true in the Cebu case—this was not the first time the nine-year-old was raped by her uncle, but her parents didn’t tell the police about the prior incidents.

What’s a solution to rape?

Sandra Newman, writing for Aeon in 2017, said that when studying cases of rape in history—from the Rape of Nanjing when Japanese soldiers raped 20,000 women, to the civil war in El Salvador where United Nations investigators in 1981 “found no reported cases of rapes being committed by insurgents”—the telling factor was the existence of a deterrent.  

“Apparently, even in the midst of war,” said Newman, “men are capable of refraining from sexual assault if they know there will be consequences.” 

Is this what is needed—a harsher deterrent? There are already laws that punish rape and sexual assault. What’s needed is for these crimes to be reported and for perpetrators to be brought to justice. 

Men should never get away with rape. They should never get away with passing the blame for their own violence, misogyny, and entitlement onto their victims. They should not get away with making women culpable for their own mistreatment.      

 “Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.”―Kurt Cobain /FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Jenny Ortuoste , rape victim , sexual assault
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