Month: October 2016

“She was asking for it.” The thin line between personal responsibility and victim blaming.

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She was standing in her closet looking at all of the clothes she had amassed over the years. She was going out tonight and she wanted to look good.  She picked out a black, deep v-neck bodycon mini dress.  It fit all of her curves just right.  She put on her black heels that wrapped around her ankle and covered her feet in fringe.  She took her time with her makeup finishing her look with a deep red lipstick she picked up from Sephora.  She fluffed out her natural curls with her fingers, accessorized her look, and walked out of the house after admiring herself from all angles in her full length mirror.

She walked into the party and in an instant all eyes were on her.  Maybe it was her long legs that caught their attention.  Or it could have been the way her dress hugged her ample ass.  It possibly could have been her cleavage that seemed to be playing peek-a-boo with her dress.  Perhaps it was that she wore confidence better than the outfit she had put together.  Regardless of what it was, she had their attention and it was…nice.  There is nothing like feeling good, looking good and others noticing.  It wasn’t that the attention was necessary for her to enjoy herself, but it was definitely an added bonus.

It started on the dance floor.  She was dancing with her girlfriends when she felt a hand cup her ass.  She spun around to see some random guy smiling at her while eyeing her up and down.  She told him to keep his hands grimy hands off of her.  He responded with, “Bitch, you came up in here with that tight ass dress.  What the fuck you thought was gonna happen?”  She and her friends relocated to a different side of the party.  They had a few drinks and decided to continue enjoying their night.  And they did.  After leaving the club she said goodbye to her friends and walked to her car.  On her way there, she saw the guy that had felt her up inside.  She walked a little faster but he had the advantage on her as her heels were more suited for being admired than actually being walked in.  She had just reached her car when he came up on her.  He put his hands all over her and dismissed her pleas for him to stop.  It wasn’t until someone called out to her did he decide to walk away.  He was laughing.  She got into her car and drove home.  Tears were spilling down her face.  She ran into her home, undressed herself and jumped into the shower to wash away the feel of his unwanted hands off of her body.

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This story is what I would like to call true fiction.  It is something that I made up, but it is also something that is very real to someone and has happened to plenty of people.  While I used a woman in this story it is not lost on me that not only women are subjected to unwanted advances and sexual assault.  This story serves a very specific purpose. It is to set the stage to speak on something that is a very sensitive subject: personal responsibility, victim blaming and the fine line that separates the two.

We are all responsible for our own actions.  What we decide to do or not do lies squarely on us.  There are circumstances that arise that can seemingly force us into an action or decision, but, ultimately, our choices are our own and we must own them.  In the above story, the young lady chose to wear a curve-accentuating, sexy dress.  She chose to go out.  She chose to have a few drinks.  She chose to walk to her car alone.  She did not choose for others to gawk at her, whether she liked it or not.  She did not choose to have a man violate her, assault her.  She holds no responsibility in his actions.  Period.  He alone is responsible for assaulting her.

The world we live in encompasses all types of people.  There are those that will always do the right thing.  There are those that seem to can’t do right at all.  And there are those that are sprinkled in between the two.  Knowing that evil lurks around every corner it is wise to always be cautious and aware of the world around you.  There is absolutely no harm in taking measures that you feel are necessary to keep yourself safe.  I do this often. Some of my own personal rules:

  • Never get drunk with people you don’t trust to have your best interest at heart.
  • Always walk in lighted areas.
  • First dates are always in public when it is with someone I don’t know.
  • Never give out my address or tell someone that I am alone.
  • Send a friend all of the information of the guy that I am meeting.

Aside from the time I was raped, these rules have served me quite well.  I do not trust the world that I live in to take care of me so I try not to put myself in vulnerable positions.  This is something I will also teach my child(ren).  I will do what is necessary and teach them to do what I feel is necessary to lessen the chances of them being treated less than human and being assaulted, degraded or disrespected.  This, I believe is not just teaching them to be responsible, but also to be aware of the world in which we live.

In addition to this lesson, however, I will also tell them that anyone that assaults them or takes advantage of them is 100% wrong.  I want my (unborn) daughter to know that there are people that are waiting on her to give them an excuse to assault her.  That excuse may come in the form of a mini dress or walking alone.  But I also want her to know that anyone who makes the choice to assault her is at fault for her assault and she is not responsible for their actions.  I want my son listening when I tell her this.  If he only hears me say that her clothing will cause men to disrespect her, then I have given him permission to disrespect women based on their clothing.  But if he hears me tell her that they should never disrespect her regardless of her clothing, then maybe, just maybe I have prevented him from becoming the type of man who thinks that a woman’s clothing is an invitation for him to degrade her.  Or any other person.  I can tell my son that sagging pants and hoodies will result in him being profiled by the police.  I can tell him that if he is stopped by an officer to be as polite as humanly possible.  But I will also tell him that any officer who arrests or puts their hands (or bullets) on him due to his clothing choices or his unfavorable attitude is absolutely unjustified.

To believe that a person is even semi-responsible for their own assault is dangerous.  This mindset is why, according to RAINN, 994 out of 1000 people charged with rape walk free.  Our justice system isn’t created with a coded system.  It is filled with a jury of 12 human beings that will fall back on their beliefs and their biases.  They will look at the “evidence” and say, “Look at what she is wearing… why is she drunk around these men… why was she walking alone?”  This is why police officers get away with “I was afraid” when they kill an unarmed black man.  It is why Daniel Holdsclaw was allowed to rape more women before he was caught.  We are giving these monsters a way out when place any blame of the victims.

We have to be careful with our words and our thoughts.  Words matter.  Even more importantly, who is listening matters.  I would never say that you shouldn’t take the necessary precautions to protect yourself or teach them to your children, but it is absolutely necessary to let them know that under no circumstances are they to blame for the actions of someone else.  We have to teach our children that they are the owners of their bodies.  No one is allowed to do anything to their bodies without their consent.  No one is allowed to degrade or assault them without consequence.  We want to make sure that when speaking about precautions and safety that we are engaging them in a very nuanced conversation or we will have another generation that will not come forward, will not step in and will continue to lay responsibility at the feet of the victims.

The line is very thin between personal responsibility and victim blaming.  Don’t make the mistake of crossing it.