Rape Culture: Why Should We Compromise Our Freedom?

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In society’s eyes, I’m nothing more than a ‘target’. I’m short, I can’t really defend myself and sometimes, I even have the audacity to go out in a low-cut top. I dare to get lost in thought when I go outside rather than being constantly hyper-vigilant in case of potential attackers. Worst of all, I’m a woman.

Parents, loved ones, and friends all emphasize that due to these factors, I can’t do everything that I want to do. While my brother was able to go out for a drive at 11 pm without batting an eyelid, I would be told from every angle that going out once the sun sets was akin to a death sentence. Who am I, Cinderella?

Don’t get me wrong, basic safety is important – especially if you’re living in a city like Southampton. Southampton is a place that’s infamous for its sexual assault problem, and reported ones barely scratch the surface of the very dark and disturbing rape culture.

There’s obviously an extent, and there’s a difference between being free and being reckless. Planning things like how you’re getting home from a night out in advance is useful advice, but this is something that should be emphasised no matter what your gender, age or build may be.

However, how is it fair for my life as a woman to be limited based on other people being a potential threat? The looming shadow of danger runs my life by dictating where I can and cannot go, at what times, and who with. How is that in any way fair?

It also puts these attackers in a position of power, which is the worst possible approach you can take. If you’re telling these potential attackers that they have all the power, do you think that will put them off? If anything, you’re encouraging them. You should be diminishing their importance and empowering survivors.

Credit: Chase Carter [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr
Additionally, assuming that attackers only go for a certain type of person reinforces a victim-blaming attitude. It implies that a girl going for a walk alone at dusk should, in a sense, be expected to get attacked. You’d feel sorry for that girl for getting attacked, but it would be suggested that by daring to go out after dark she knowingly put herself in danger. Again, completely unhelpful and counter-productive.

This profiling of the potential victim is also unhelpful towards those who don’t meet this criterion. It can make men who experience sexual assault feel somewhat invalidated as if their experiences don’t ‘count’ as assault and, in turn, suggests that they don’t deserve the same level of support and resources as women who experience assault do.

Also, assuming that the attacker is going to be some hooded figure who only acts in the dead of night has limited usefulness: many rapists are known to the victims and act in broad daylight. Consequently, acting solely on the assumption that there’s only one type of rapist means that only one type of the issue is addressed.

So, what now? How can we solve problems like limited freedom, sexism, victim-blaming and stereotyping in relation to sexual assault? The very simple solution is to educate, but not in the current one-sided way we do. Rather than telling people to avoid living their lives in fear of attack, it’s fairer and more productive to enforce the importance of not attacking. Our focus on victim-blaming and profiling is misplaced: the attention needs to be on teaching people not to rape in the first place.

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Politics Editor, meme lord, and an all-round busybody.

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