Sunday, February 7

Blaming the Victims

Even though this post was sparked by a post on “The F-Word”, it’s not just about rape victims, but about victims of crime. It’s a sentence towards the end of the post that actually sparked this one, because it’s true: Every kind of crime can be prevented simply by the perpetrator deciding not to do it.

In other words: The victim doesn’t really have the chance to stop a crime from happening, most of the times. Because you can be as careful, can train your body as much, there will always be a time at which you will be vulnerable and helpless. In sleep, when you’re attacked so suddenly you’re down even before you know what happened, when the attacker is armed (we’re not all the action hero of our choice – and real life is not the place where the good guys always win). There are many ways to make a person – female or male – helpless, provided the perpetrator plans in advance. What can you do against someone who comes to attack you while you sleep? Seriously? You can’t stop sleeping, your body needs the rest. How can you avoid a sudden attack? Never going anywhere? What about someone with a gun? Depending on where you are when he comes for you, how close he gets and whom he threatens (yourself or your loved ones), you might be virtually unable to fight back. (You can substitute ‘she’ for all male pronouns here as well, even though most violent crimes are committed by men.)

We are all trained, these days, to be prepared at all times. TV and newspapers report crimes every day, making us believe the world is a very dangerous place. And the most dangerous predator we have to fear is another human. As a result of this, most of us – and women even more so then men – have become very distrustful of people around us. We do not trust that easily, because we always get told to be careful. But crime does not stop, does it? It probably never will, because the necessary mind set for committing crime is part of human design.

Yet, in cases of rape, the victim often gets the blame. It starts with remarks like “she was asking for it, dressed like that” and ends with stuff like “she should not have gone out alone in the dark”.

Rape is not about sex, it’s about power. This is what people often seem to forget in such discussions. It’s not about the need to have sex – any man can go to a prostitute if he direly needs sex and doesn’t find someone else to have it with (and in Germany, where I live, that’s even legal). During rape, the sex is a way of keeping score, if you allow me to put it like that. It’s a way to prove “I’m stronger than you and can do to you whatever I want”. Because forced sex (really forced, not just part of a BDSM situation) is the most degrading and humiliating thing you can do to someone, no matter whether it’s a female or a male.

Apart from the simple fact that no kind of dress (even no dress at all) justifies forcing yourself on someone else, arguments like “she’s been rightfully raped, because she didn’t wear some sort of full-body veil” go amiss. A woman can be raped wearing any kind of clothes, even a full-body veil. A man can be raped (this is what most people seem to forget).

Rape has always been part of the arsenal of crimes one can commit during a war – raping the (usually civilian) women in the enemy country. As a man, you face the danger of being executed once the enemy soldiers arrive. As a woman, you can call yourself lucky if execution is all you have to face. It may or may not be the last thing you have to endure, but more often than not, rape comes first.

In the end, it boils down to that single sentence again: Only the perpetrator has a one hundred percent chance of preventing a crime. By simply not doing it.

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