There’s been a lot of debate in the last week about blame. Who is to blame when there is a crime? Is it the perpetrator? Or can a victim of a crime ever be to blame? More specifically is the victim of rape or sexual assault ever to blame for what happens to them?
Was her skirt to short? Was she too drunk? Did she dance too provocatively? Did she go home with someone she didn’t know very well? Did she let him buy her drinks all night? Did she lead him on? Did she walk home instead of taking a taxi? Did she take the shortcut home through the dark alleyway instead of keeping to the well-lit path?
The simple answer is that these are questions that should never be asked.
Because it is never the victims fault.
I’ll say that again.
The victim is never to blame.
As a woman this debate and the ensuing commentary has worried me. I’m in my 30s now and as a busy new mum, my nightclubbing days are well behind me and if I do ever end up in one, it would be on the rarest of occasions and let’s just say my moves on the dancefloor are a little outdated!
But of course, like most people when I was in my 20s I was in many nightclubs and pubs. During my college days our gang would go out, dance, drink and have fun. But when I stopped to think about many of those nights, I also remembered other parts of the evening that weren’t so fun. Things that happened far too frequently, but were brushed under the carpet and not spoken about.
A hand grabbing your bum out of nowhere. A scummy wink that followed.
Sweaty hands shoved under your skirt or down your trousers, making you gag in disgust.
Breasts groped without permission.
Drinks bought and an assumption that I’m fair game for the night.
And I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’m willing to bet if you asked 100 women of my age did they have similar experiences of unwelcome groping in their late teens or 20’s, the figure would be in the 90s. So did I ask for those things to happen to me? Was it my fault because I wore that mini skirt? Did I dance in a certain way and lead these men on? Did I have one to many vodka and red bull and suddenly become fair game?
The answer is no.
The debate over the last week has unearthed some truly shocking comments online. Keyboards went into overdrive as malice and vitriol were thrown around as if they were confetti. Argument and counter argument often descended into petty mudslinging, completely missing the kernel of the issue.
The victim is never to blame.
One has to wonder how anyone is brave enough to come forward to say they were raped and even braver to go to court when this sort of victim blaming philosophy still permeates an undercurrent of society on some level.
I said this topic worried me as a woman. But as a mum to a baby boy, it worries me even more. It worries me because I want to raise my son to know that it’s never okay to take advantage of anyone, no matter what the circumstances. It doesn’t matter how drunk they are, it doesn’t matter what they are wearing, and it doesn’t matter if they come home with you and then suddenly change their mind about sex. Nothing justifies rape or sexual assault. No level of extenuating circumstances rationalise it.
I know it’s down to myself and my husband to instil a sense of decency into our son, but what happens when society starts to play more of a role in his thinking? A society that still allows victim blaming to go on?
Ultimately I just want my son to have a moral compass that’s guided by a sense of honesty, fairness and trust, instead of this misguided assertion that on some level the victim is at fault. The only way to move forward is to address it now. We can’t brush it under the carpet any longer. We can’t be like my 20 something year old self in the nightclub who doesn’t talk about being groped. What we need is a national debate; we need to talk about it; we need to start educating kids much, much earlier, because if we don’t, we’re in danger of letting this go on and on for another generation.