“She’s asking for it!”

I work with women (and men) who have experienced sexual abuse. One of the things that leave them confused and with a deep sense of worthlessness is the inevitable question, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?”. Victims of abuse frequently blame themselves…they suspect that they did something to attract the assault so somehow the assault it was their fault.

Sadly, as a society, for a long time we have endorsed this thinking, particularly with women. That we allow lawyers to ask questions like, “what were you wearing?”, “How much had you had to drink?”, and to probe a woman’s sexual history, as if that somehow made the assault justifiable, locks into our social thinking that women are responsible for being raped.

The list of things women shouldn’t do is endless. What they shouldn’t wear, how they shouldn’t behave, where they shouldn’t go, what they shouldn’t say, how they shouldn’t look at a man. These notions underpin the thinking that, “she was asking for it”.

If we want a just society we need to unequivocally endorse all women’s right to be safe and this starts with upholding the statement that there is nothing a woman can do to “ask for it”. Judges need to stop lawyers from asking any question that suggests the victim was responsible for the crime.

While this is a deadly serious point, these guys have taken a fun look at where that thinking might go, if we took it in the other direction.

A point of clarification – at the outset I said I see both men and women who have been sexually assault. While there are similarities in the trauma of being assaulted the societal meanings differ. Men face their own, distinct challenges of identity around sexual assault which lead to a similar sense of worthlessness. Sexual assault destroys lives. It’s something that many people don’t recover from and struggle to deal with. The time to tolerate or justify it has long past.

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