What causes rape?
A. Being flirtatious
B. Wearing a short skirt
C. Drinking too much
As the leader of an organization that provides education and treatment for rape I think it’s important to remind everyone whom the guilty party is when it comes to this horrific crime. Time and time again, individuals, including news reporters and even judges, do not focus on the one who has committed the crime in the first place but rather turn their sights on the survivor.
They want to know what she was wearing? Was she drinking? Did she leave with him? Why was she out so late? What is her reputation? And the list goes on….
This damaging mentality, called victim blaming, occurs all-too-often and has been very obvious most recently in the high-profile Steubenville case. Why does it happen? A victim-blaming mindset allows individuals to distance themselves from the realization that they too are vulnerable to such a crime. By holding the person that has been violated as partially responsible they reassure themself that since they are “not like” the rape survivor rape could not happen to them.
Rape is already a violation of someone’s body and spirit. Why must we follow up with an assault on the survivor’s dignity by questioning what she was wearing or why she chose to stay out late? For our own self-assurance? Imagine if the types of questions that are asked of rape survivors were asked of a robbery victim. Click here for an interesting exercise depicting this idea. Absurd isn’t it?
Many times rape survivors, who may be already facing a myriad of feelings, including shame and guilt, don’t come forward, for fear of the reaction from others, making it one of the most unreported crimes. HAVEN’s Safe Therapeutic Assault Response Team (START), made up of forensic nurses, physician’s assistants, and HAVEN advocates has also seen an increase in survivors choosing not to file a police report.
In 2012, START served approximately 200 victims of sexual assault with about 25% of them in their early to mid-teens. The patients received both emotional support by the advocate and therapeutic medical care in a safe environment. Even with emotional support and medical care, some survivors still find it too difficult to press charges for fear of social rejection and the stigma associated with rape.
During this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I urge you to review your own actions and words when it comes to rape. When you hear of one of these life-altering, horrific crimes do you question what the rape victim did or didn’t do that could have caused the rape?
Instead of contributing to this problem, be part of the change and challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them. Don’t revictimize a survivor for a traumatic event that was out of their control. Your show of support and respect to survivors is what will lift them up on their road to recovery.
If you or someone you know needs help or would like more information about START, call our Crisis and Support Line at 1-877-922-1274.
Don’t forget! Help raise awareness of sexual assault by donning your favorite blues on Denim Day held April 26, 2013. For more information about participating in Denim Day or making a donation to support victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, contact HAVEN at 248-334-1284, ext. 346.