“I hope she be ok and learn from this bad experience”
Victim blaming is the beginning of a domino effect. First, when rape victims are blamed, shamed or turned away by their peers, family, police or their rapist after confronting their tragedy, they are hesitant to file a report and go through with a trial with trying their rapist. This resistance then causes the rapist to get away with the rape, and more people think that the consequences for rape are morphed. They may face legal punishment but are still supported by their community, or they may not even be sentenced at all. Either way, the blaming and absence of justice leaves victims battered and often unable to heal emotionally.
The cause of rapists’ success is essentially rooted in victim blaming. It’s been this way since around 1670 when the English judge Sir Matthew Hale wrote that husbands cannot be guilty of rape because through their “matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract.” Therefore, the wife is at fault because her husband owns her right to want to have sex. So, a woman’s husband got away with raping her because she was the one who gave him her rights. Today, martial rape is illegal in all 50 states of America, but it still happens. Mandy Boardman, mother of two, wrote about her nightmare of being rape by her own husband. She explains that he would drug her with Ambien and/or Xanax without her knowledge or consent and would then rape her. She found video on his phone as proof. After divorcing, Boardman felt the need to report her ex-husband. In court, he was found to be guilty of six felonies, but he would not be going to prison. Instead, he would be able to go home, and live his life under house arrest. Boardman explains that the judge actually said, “that my ex may have been a crappy husband, but he was a good father and that I should ‘forgive him.’” This judge’s actions insulted Boardman, as well as shamed her. No one would tell a victim of a robbery to “forgive” the criminal who stole his or her belongings. A victim of robbery once trusted that his or her belongings were safe. Boardman had once trusted her husband not to drug and rape her. It is a tragedy that a judge, someone in extreme authority, would feel it was okay to explicitly shame a victim of rape into believing forgiveness of her assailant was due, simply because he was once her husband. The reality of Boardman’s relationship with her attacker makes it much more horrifying, and no measure of forgiveness should ever be granted.
The severity of victim blaming has indeed escalated and progressed over the years. There are different ways to blame a victim, and one of those is to slut shame. Slut shaming is criticizing someone’s sexual activity through condemnation of one’s behavior, appearance, values, culture, or life choices. For example, in Chicago in December 2012, three teenage boys raped a 12-year-old girl at gunpoint. When it was revealed that the rapists were going to be tried as adults, people felt the need to take to social media to share their opinions on the situation. People slut shamed the young girl by saying horrible things like; “just a loose drunk slut,” “Something she never should have done. A 12 year old girl shouldn’t be associating with 16 year old teenage boy. Some girls are advanced at this age and she should have known what he wanted her to do when he invited her to his home. No doubt she didn’t expect his friends to be there. I hope she be ok and learn from this bad experience,” and “SHOULD BE AWARE OF THEIR SURROUNDINGS regardless how drunk u are.” These people sincerely believe that this young girl is at fault for being raped because of her decisions and behavior. These illogical claims made to shame the young girl teach her that this tragedy is her fault. Even though she is not old enough to consent and even though she was raped at gunpoint, she is guilty. This shaming will continue. Others who read the claims will realize that the perpetrators receive the support while the victim is condemned. An idea that stems from these comments is that people who read the claims should take more precaution to keep them safe. The fact of the matter is, however, no one should have to take “more” precaution. A 12-year-old girl should be able to hang out with boys without having to worry about a gun being pulled on her. A woman should be able to put on false eyelashes and red lipstick and get a drink at a bar without being harassed by people on the street or at the bar. Women shouldn’t have to go to great lengths to keep themselves safe, contrary to what they are taught throughout our lives. The buddy system, going to the bathroom in groups, not wearing headphones while walking home at night, are a few examples of ways women are already trying to keep themselves safe. What else are we supposed to do? The answer relies on the participation of the other gender involved. Men should, simply put, respect boundaries and privacy. Unfortunately, that seems a bit too hard for many people to comprehend, thus there are numerous accounts where women are taken advantage of. Therefore, the domino effect prevails: victims are blamed, rapists are endorsed in some aspect of society, and victims are left in the dust without closure, leaving future victims hesitant to go through with legal actions of their own.
Not all the types of victim blaming are easy to identify, either. An example of this is a monologue about a man who was raped by his female teacher when he was a child. He says, “All the guys would laugh at me about it, calling me faggot for not enjoying it and I was like, ‘psych, I totally did enjoy it.’ Then they high-fived me and told me I was cool and that Ms. Tupper was hot and they were jealous.” Here, the perpetrators of the blaming are “all the guys.” They shamed him because he did not find being molested as a pleasurable experience. This caused him, as the victim, to adapt to their ideals by not taking his rape seriously. Since he did not accept this as a traumatic experience, he is unable to emotionally heal. He proves this by saying, “It was the most popular I’d been in my whole life. It was the happiest I’ve ever been. And I wasn’t happy, but sometimes as a guy, if you want to fit in you have to hide your pain and humor is a great way of doing that and that’s why I sincerely think that rape is hilarious. Because I have to.” He does not confront the candidness of what happened to him in order to prevent the weight of the tragedy from tearing him apart. Instead, he treats it like a joke because that is what he was shamed to do.
Eichelberger, Erica. “Men Defining Rape: A History.” Mother Jones. 27 August 2012. Web. 2 November 2015.
“A Guy Talks About Rape From A Man’s Perspective. (And It’s Not What You Think, Either.)” Upworthy. 14 April 2014. Web. 2 November 2015.
Turner, Natasha. “Rape-splaining: 10 Examples of Victim Blaming.” Ms. Magazine. 28 May 2013. Web. 2 November 2015.
Boardman, Mandy. “My Husband Raped Me.” Time. 29 July 2015. Web. 17 November 2015.