Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Do we still not understand the difference between victim and attacker?

This article was produced in response to this article. Many thanks to Natasha for writing this for us.

Hong Kong’s chief director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos says victims of sexual

and indecent assault in some cases should show compassion if it is their attacker’s

first offence.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Morning Post Zervos stated that "Men will

actually respect women more if they see women showing compassion to them and

realising they are better off without a conviction,". Once again, a prime example of

letting the blame rest on the victim’s shoulders, telling the victim it is their fault that

their attackers may receive a conviction.

In late 2012, He urged victims that light sentences (or no sentence at all in some

cases) should not be viewed as attackers getting away with their crimes, claiming that

light sentences issue better warnings.  "There's this boy-girl thing in life," he then

said. "You have young men and women out there interacting socially. And when an

incident happens and a man gets carried away … is it social misbehaviour or is it a

crime?’’. Zervos also made the move to lock up people who make questionable bank

deposits without any trial or inquisition; completely contrasting his aforementioned

theory of societal misconduct.

This begs the question, why does the law seem to be altered when the crime is related

to sexual assault? Why are victims of indecent attacks expected to forgive and forget?

Would we be expected to do the same if we were victims of bank fraud, or our homes

had been burgled? Why are we expected to show compassion to the people who stole

our bodies but not our material belongings?

Last year, of 646 indecent assault cases heard in magistrates' courts, 16 were

dealt with by bind overs Zervos' support of greater compassion for first-time

offenders comes amid global debate on how to best prevent crime. According to

the ‘Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women’, only 50 percent of

victims report assaults and rapes. Through the idea of showing compassion to your

attackers, it is extremely likely that less victims would report crimes, especially if

they know nothing will be done to reprimand their attacker and nothing will be done

to prevent it from happening again.

One victim of indecent assault told the Post that she recently felt pressured to

agree to a binding-over order by the police, saying: "It was confusing because the

police repeatedly asked me whether I'd be willing to go for a bind over and gave

me the impression that I had the decision… Afterwards, I found out it was up to

the prosecutor. I found it frustrating because I went through all that hassle and it

was an intimidating experience." Her assailant agreed to not attack anyone again

but was that really enough? Especially considering everything the victim had to go

through; during the attack, at the police station, in the courts… doubtless she’d have

been shamed and blamed by parts of the community where her attacker roams free,

possibly without so much as a follow up report on whether they have committed

the crime once more. The victims of sexual crimes go through a lot more harsh

questioning by police than attackers do. How is that right?

Media doesn’t help with this idea of compassion to attackers either; take the

Steubenville case for example. The hacker who exposed the case was actually

castigated more than the actual rapists themselves. The two teens convicted of the

actual rape faced a mere two years in juvenile detention and a small ban from their

high school football career, and around 70% of the world were okay with that. This

is what we as humans have become because we are being taught that rape isn’t really

wrong, it may just get you a police caution.

Prosecutors like Zervos need to stop making their laws easier for them and their

backwards system and start treating victims like they need to be treated: with the

upmost respect and dignity. Prosecutors need to start treating the attackers and

perpetrators of sexual crime much harsher than they do now, much harsher than

they do to people who have illegally downloaded music off the internet. At the end of

the day, it is never a victims fault that your government system is so flawed that you

fail to understand the difference between a victim and an attacker.

Natasha Kalantar

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