Possible Trigger Warnings: Rape, rape culture, victim-blaming.
From when sexual assaults are reported on the news to when a friend or family member is talking to you personally, there are some things you just…don’t say, because not only can those thing be completely and utterly horrid but they can really just frickin’ hurt the person that you’re saying them to. Speaking from personal experience, I still remember exactly what the first person I ever told about the abuse I went through said to me and I can safely say that what she said sufficently planted that “it’s all your fault” seed in a part of my head, which in ten years and another assault later has grown into a nice little black hole.
As far as all of the things to not ask and not say go, I think they all can be separated into four specific categories:
First off, there are the “I’m totally not blaming you for what happened, but have you tried covering every inch of your skin and locking yourself in a tower that’s guarded by a fire breathing dragon”questions. These are the ones where a person implies (or flat out insists) that you MUST have been doing something that “provoked” the attacker(s) into raping you.
Examples of this are: What were you wearing? How much did you drink? Did you keep an eye on your drink at ALL times? Did you flirt with the person/people who did this? How late was it? Did you lock your door? Did you get into a car with them? How many sexual partners have you had in the past?
Reasons why this is a shit thing to say: Because rape is never the victim’s fault. What one person does—what they drink, what they wear, how many people they’ve had sex with—does not flip on a switch in another person’s mind that forces them to rape another person. What one person does does not negate the fact that they did not consent or could not consent or wasn’t in a state where their consent was valid. When you ask questions like this, you are essentially telling the person that you think that they could have prevented what happened to them. And here’s a fun fact, people; the only real rape prevention is for people to not be rapists.
The second category is for the “Did you ___? Why not? Well, I would have!” questions. This is what happens when the person will ask you if you did something that they think you obviously should have done, then asks why not, and when your answer isn’t satisfactory enough for them they give their input on how they’d be so much more kick-ass than you.
Examples of this: Why didn’t you call the police? Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you scream? Did you tell anyone? Well, if I were in your position I would’ve fought them tooth and nail! I wouldn’t have LET them rape me!
Reasons why this is a shit thing to say: It’s easy to say what you would or wouldn’t have done when you weren’t the person in that situation. The fact of the matter is that you were not the one who experienced this and even if you had a similar experience in the past, this person is not you. Their mind doesn’t work the same way as yours, what they experienced is not the same as what you experienced. What they felt, what was going through their head at the time—these are unique to that person. Even if you were placed in that exact—and I mean EXACT—same situation, you would not feel exactly what they felt. There may be similar, borderline identical things there but you and them are two seperate people and your responses to events and reactions to them are not going to be completely mirrored.
The third category is for the “You got off lucky! There are people who get out of things like this soooo much worse off than you!” statements. This is like the cousin of the opression olympics. The person will explain to you that you really have no right to feel anything other than relieved about what happened because there are people in the world who have experienced much more painful things and you’re totally lucky that you got off that easy.
Examples of this are: You’re lucky you were a young child when this happened, there are people who have clear memories of their attack! You’re lucky that they didn’t kill you, at least you’re alive! You should be glad that they weren’t rough with you, there are some people who are really get physically hurt by this!
Reasons why this is a shit thing to say: Just because someone else in the world is going through/went through something “more severe” than what this person went through does not mean that what happened to this person didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t allowed to feel how they feel, and it doesn’t mean that you have any right to tell them that they should be happy that they “got off easy”. This is the same concept that allows the idea of “forcible rape is the only real rape” to exist. Rape isn’t just about bruises or blood; just because there aren’t physical scars doesn’t mean that the person isn’t affected by what happened and you have no right, whatsoever, to tell them what they are and aren’t allowed to feel about this.
And, last but not least, there is category four; the “Raped? You weren’t raped. I want you to prove to me RIGHT NOW that you were raped.” statements. These are the people who flat out don’t believe anything that you say. The reasons given can range from the “popular people don’t need to rape to get laid” to the “you were drunk, you’re not allowed to feel bad and cry rape the next day”.
Examples of this are: He’s the most popular guy at school, he could have anyone he wants so he totally wouldn’t have raped anyone! Look at you, just be glad that you got laid and quit trying to ruin a good person’s life! Pfft, look at how they dress it’s totally obvious that they’re only accusing them to get attention!
Reasons why this is a shit thing to say: Contrary to what various TV shows or movies or media outlets would have you believe, not all rapists and victims fit a specific type—they don’t all have the same appearance or personalities. Popular people, pretty people, and people that would have “no trouble getting laid”? Those people can be rapists too. Just like those people who you think would be “lucky to get with someone like them!” can be rape victims. This line of reasoning? This is the line of reasoning that lets pro-athletes get off scott free when there’s a mountain of evidence that they’re guilty. This is the line of reasoning that has victims terrified to tell anyone about how this popular, everyone-likes-em person dragged them into the school bathroom and raped them. This person has no—let me repeat that: NO—obligation to prove a damn thing to you and the fact that you automatically doubt them because of how “awesome” their rapist is or because of how “not-awesome” they are is just flat out an asshole move.
All of these things? These are all things that I’ve had said to me. These are things that I’ve heard other people have said to them. These are things that I’ve read about being said to people in various blogs and journals online. And these are things that I see in every single comment section of every single rape that makes the headlines.
These are all things that just should NOT be said. These all are statements or questions that somehow say—whether it be subtle or blunt—that the rape was in some way the victim’s fault or that the victim did something wrong or that the victim could’ve been a “better” victim or that the victim ain’t even a victm because popular people aren’t rapists or some crap like that!
And I have no clue how to end this post on a note that isn’t awkward or cliche or pep talky, so…I’m just going to end it with a period and be done.