(Content note: Rape, sexual violence, victim-blaming)
This society purports to be against sexual violence; you’d be very hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t, at least outwardly and on the surface, consider sexual violence to be morally reprehensible.
But not if the survivor was too scared to say no. Or was repeatedly pressured and coerced until they felt like they had no option but to submit. Or if they’ve had a lifetime of being told not to say no directly, to let people down gently, to be nice and polite and compliant. Or if they said no but didn’t say it enough. Or if they didn’t physically fight back, even though doing so is often dangerous and freezing up is the most common response. Or if they didn’t scream and shout and make a fuss and run away afterwards, even though we’re socialised to be as non-confrontational as humanly possible.
Or if they’re unhurt, because then clearly it wasn’t “real” rape. Any signs of getting on with everyday life are proof that it wasn’t “real” rape.
And certainly not if they’ve been drinking, because then they must not remember what happened properly (you know how hysterical women can be) or they’re just regretting sex the next morning. Or if they drink at all, because that’s just irresponsible. Or if the perpetrator was drinking, because surely they can’t be held responsible for their actions.
Or if it happened at night – what was the victim doing, walking alone at that time? I mean, it’s not like she has a life to live or a job to go to (or come home from), is it?
Or if she was was wearing clothing considered revealing or attractive, because wearing that is “asking for it”; it certainly wouldn’t be something silly like staying cool on a hot day, because women dress only for the male gaze. Same goes for make-up, even though women are often pressured and shamed into wearing it.
Or if the survivor would be considered conventionally attractive, because what do they expect? They deserve all the “unwanted attention” they receive.
Or if they’re deemed unattractive; after all, they should be grateful, and anyway, who’d want to touch them?
Or if they’re sexually active and promiscuous, because consent to sex with one person is of course consent to sex with everyone all the time.
Or if they’ve kissed the perpetrator at any point, or even as much as touched them, because consent to that equates to consent to sex with that person all the time. Or if they’ve even talked; that’s just leading them on, even though women are socialised to be tactful and accommodating and just accept that he only wants a nice chat, why are you being such a bitch about it?
Or if they’re in a relationship with the perpetrator, or ever were, because consenting to a relationship is the same as consenting to sex, and consenting to sex once is the same as consenting to sex forever.
Or if they were at work and risked losing their job or reputation if they tried to stop it or report it, because they’re just being selfish for putting their career first.
Or if they’re a sex worker, because it’s their job, right?
Or if they’re a celebrity, because then they’re just making these allegations to further their career, for publicity and attention. Or if the perpetrator is a celebrity, because that also means the survivor just wants publicity and attention – even if they’re anonymous. And accusing famous people of sexual violence is just a witch-hunt, right?
Or if the violence happens so regularly without consequence that it’s just accepted – because women get groped in clubs all the time, and this somehow makes it okay.
Or if the survivor goes through the completely normal process of taking time to realise and accept that what happened to them was a form of sexual violence – if, just after it happened, they told the perpetrator who probably still terrifies them that it wasn’t rape, then they can’t just change their mind.
Or if it happened in the past, because the world was just like that then. Back then we just called it “wandering hands” – we accepted it then, so you have to shut up and accept it now.
Or if it happened recently, because that stuff doesn’t happen anymore.
Or if survivors speak out, because they must be lying, especially given all of the above. False allegations are no higher than for any other crime, but everyone knows people lie about sexual violence, women are liars and the shockingly low conviction rate is just some feminist conspiracy, certainly not a result of any systemic failure of the justice system.
Or if they don’t speak out immediately, because why not? Suddenly we live in a world where survivors are believed, taken seriously, and not made to suffer further abuse, so there’s no reason at all to keep quiet. Unless you’re lying for publicity and attention, of course.
Or if the perpetrator is yet to be convicted in court, because everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that means survivors are liars until proven otherwise. Even though there couldn’t be a conviction without reporting in the first place.
Or if the perpetrator is already convicted, because then the survivor is just jumping on the bandwagon, and they’re selfish for not speaking out sooner. They’re just as bad because they could have prevented future violence. We’d have believed them. Honest.
This society purports to be against sexual violence, until you read the small print. The phrases – sexual violence, assault, rape – are seen as morally reprehensible, but their definitions are restricted so narrowly that they’re almost impossible to satisfy. Being accused of sexual violence seems to warrant more sympathy than actually suffering it.
This society isn’t against sexual violence at all.