Victims and self-blaming
A few weeks ago a female friend came to me in some distress.
They had been sexually harassed and pestered in the street by a man following them, commenting on their intimate body parts, using inappropriate language and being persistent. This persisted for quite some time in spite of her ignoring him.
This had distressed her greatly, as a very private and shy young woman, and she'd had a panic attack, almost fainted with distress and had to go into t a public toilet to sit and cry where no-one could see.
So I was very worried about her, and we talked.
What struck me immediately was that rather than being outraged by the man's behaviour, she was worried about her reaction.
"What's wrong with me? Do I need therapy? Why would I react like that? There must be something very wrong with me.'
This was not helped by another friend saying
"Just smile and enjoy it! Someone fancies you! He thought you were hot."
Luckily I managed to turn perspectives around, that the pathological thing wasn't her distressed reaction. I said that is a normal reaction for many women. Its him. He imposed on you. He acted strange and creepy. His behaviour was scary and it was unwanted. You reaction was normal, his behaviour was not normal.
This helped a lot for her. The other friend said nothing else so I don't know how she digested it. If I hadn't been there my friend would have completely blamed herself for the incident.
This is a significant issue. Females are not raised to be confident. They are not raised to say no. We are raised to say 'yes', to endlessly apologise, to be accommodating, to blame ourselves for every mistake and apologise for every success.
Society's blame of victims impacts victims themselves. If we as a society tolerate abuse, individuals will tolerate abuse. If women are given the message that their role is to be ornamental and amenable, they will feel guilty if unwanted attention distresses them. Even a rape victim will blame themselves for being frigid, especially if the attacker is someone they knew and previously respected as a good person.
They will think:
"It must have been my fault, I must have led him on, I shouldn't have frozen, I should have said no louder, it must have been my fault because he's always been a good guy. Did he think I was enjoying it? That would be my fault. poor guy had no idea he was raping me, and if I wasn't so frigid and weird it wouldn't have happened. Everyone knows guys can't stop once they reach a certain point. I need to protect his reputation."
When I was assaulted at age 13, my mother told me "You should have stopped him. If you didn't stop him then you wanted to."
You be surprised where victim blaming comes from. If society carries blame attitudes, and excuses male violence, so will victims.
The message needs to get out there loud and clear that victims are never to blame. While that message is not there, victims will continue to blame themselves and abusers will continue to get away with traumatising people.
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Agree this is a very important issue because holding men to account for their choice and decision to sexually harass women is essential if we are to change incessant women-blaming.
Thank you for being there and helping the woman to see what was really happening. The woman was not responsible in any way for what that man decided to do but sadly because we live in a male supremacist system, male accountability continues to be denied and women continue to be taught as children that they are responsible for male behaviour and male actions.