This extract from an Australian paper says it all about women’s experiences of being attacked, assaulted, raped, threatened with murder, or, murdered.
It also encapsulates, everything, but everything about society’s views of women. Victim blaming and shaming. Asking for it. Lucky to be deemed worthy of a rape attack (JFC!). Stupid. Of course. Women are stupid for just being alive.
And of course God. Because God. Tell that to the Mormon women students who were raped.
Sexual urges. The poor man had no money for a prostitute so he raped a non-prostitute instead. So sad he had no money isn’t it? Whether he did or didn’t is fucking irrelevant. Men’s wants do not trump women’s. What part of that is not clear? Your gross sexual urges are no excuse for rape. Or attempted rape/murder.
But read on:
I wasn’t technically raped that night. And boy do people love to remind me of that.
“I know what happened is bad and all, but he didn’t actually, you know, get it up you, did he?”
This was the question put to me by a male manager at my casual job, a week after the assault took place. My bruises hadn’t even disappeared but the implication was clear: if there’s no P-in-V, it’s not so bad, is it?
Sure, I’d been indecently sexually assaulted, physically assaulted, strangled, told I would be killed, and held at blade point. But in a phallocentric world, sexual violence isn’t measured by the trauma the victim experiences, but by the perpetrator’s assessment of the event: and if the penis didn’t get its way? Then what right should I have to expect the same supports and police resourcing that a “real rape victim” would get?
This wasn’t the only insensitive comment people made.
“You’re a pretty girl, you know. You could take it as a compliment that he selected you.” (This piece of unsolicited advice was kindly offered by a female journalist working for a women’s magazine).
“You have to admit Nina, you were pretty stupid for walking home alone”. (This gem was offered by an old friend I went to school with.)
One woman asked in all seriousness: “Do you ever think this might not have happened if you had a closer relationship with God?”
Another woman took the time and trouble to email me to inform me that she had real pity for me until, that was, she learnt that I had been “doing all the wrong things”.
Since then, I’ve been told it’s my fault for drinking. My fault for listening to music. My fault for travelling alone (as though women should only ever venture out in public if they are in the company of a chaperone).
People have called me a liar and an attention seeker.
I’ve had one stranger persistently request that I share the police photos taken that night with him.
I’ve had other strange men send me messages of sympathy, immediately followed up with a sunny little dick-pic. For condolence, I guess. (No, I do not want to commiserate with your boner).
I’ve had schools ask me if I will come speak to their female students about the “risky situations” that women put themselves in (no, I won’t, don’t ask me again).
I’ve been asked whether the problem lies in girls “not respecting themselves” (and here I was thinking that my assault happened because my attacker has no respect for women, for me, or for my right to live a life free of sexual violence.)
I’ve also had someone suggest that the poor guy probably “just had no money, otherwise he would have gone to a prostitute”. As though sexual violence isn’t about power and control at all, but a man’s simple desire to have certain sexual needs met.
Over and over I have been asked the questions that so many other survivors have also been asked: “What were you wearing? How much did you have to drink? Don’t you know how stupid you were being?”
And each and every one of these questions (and so many more) serve to silence women. They do this by deflecting attention away from the actions and choices of perpetrators, and by insinuating that women are responsible for the violence we have experienced.
And finally there was this remark made by some clever chap who wanted to discuss my attack online:
“What a conceited bitch for thinking she’s even worthy of rape. The guy just probably wanted to give her a good bashing in which case job well done.”
Charming stuff, isn’t it?
Of course, this is only a fraction of what women deal with when we speak out publicly about sexual violence. And in many ways my own assault was easier to speak out about than many others. That’s because I was assaulted by a stranger and there was physical violence involved. But most victims aren’t assaulted by strangers and rarely are there physical signs of violence, and this makes it even harder to be believed.
And this is why so women stay silent. Why so many choose not to report.
It’s also why perpetrators feel so entitled to keep on offending: because our society continually affirms for them that women are in the wrong. That women are untrustworthy. That stranger-danger rape is the only “legitimate rape”. That women make-up sexual abuse in order to assuage sexual regret. That the word of a man is worth far more than the word of woman.
And thanks to Miep whose blog had the link.