In light of recent events, I thought it would be useful to talk about victim blaming and also a feeling that I am sure all women have felt numerous times before, a feeling we all know too well. That fear you get inside you as you walk home alone and it’s starting to get dark, that unease you feel when your alone and someone is walking in your direction and you can’t see their face.
Ask any women in your life if they’ve felt that; I am almost certain I, and everyone else for that matter already know the answer.
I have noticed myself instinctively gripping onto my keys when I walk home, as if its second nature. I don’t put my earphones in anymore either in the fear I won’t hear anyone if they come up behind me. This is something that I have been told to do. Growing up in this society I have been told to make sure I am always ready to defend myself, I have always been told to cover up if I’m walking alone or tuck my hair in my coat. These instructions are something we have all heard before. My point is, how about instead of dictating to women that we should do all these things and ingrain them into our minds like it’s completely normal, we ask how we can make the streets a safer place for women so we don’t feel the need to grip our keys between our fingers.
I am sure you have all seen the tragic events making headline news recently, the murder of Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and murdered when she was walking home in Clapham by a met police officer, who has since been charged. Since these headlines, there has been a huge number of men and women coming forward to talk about it- women saying that it reminded them of experiences where they had felt unsafe, as well as men talking about what they can do to help women feel comfortable.
However, there were also responses that suggested it was Sarah’s fault as she was the one who was out at night, as if walking home immediately means it’s your fault if a dangerous situation occurs. These victim blaming statements are intensely damaging for a number of reasons including:
· Making victims feel like they cannot speak out about their experiences in the fear they won’t be taken seriously.
· Suggesting that women are the ones that need to change their behaviour in order to be safe.
· Giving a sense of excuse to perpetrators (which links back to the idea of victims being silenced)
Victim blaming does not only affect the direct victim of the violence, it has a rippling effect on the rest of society because it makes other victims feel like they can’t speak out in the fear that they are also going to be blamed. The public victim blaming of Sarah Everard will have that same rippling effect and it needs to be stopped.
When are we as a society going to start putting the blame back on perpetrators? It does not matter if a woman was walking home at night, the only person to blame is the perpetrator and that is final. ‘UN Women UK’ conducted a survey and found that 97% of 18-24 year olds have experienced sexual harassment, 55% did not think the incident was serious enough to report.
If those statistics were not shocking enough, GRM Daily posted these statistics on their Instagram page, some of the comments included:
· “Imagine how clapped you must feel if you’re in the other 3%”
· “97% might aswell make it legal”
· “cmon lads, we can do better and raise it to 100%”
· “55% of them was probably lying”
Tragically, this is our current reality. This is the kind of attitude that incites fear. It is people like that who will continue to drive this concept of victim blaming throughout society and also dangerous attitudes towards women, their disgusting comments have since been deleted. I just want to say for any man reading this, how would you feel if your sister or mother or any other woman in your life was part of that 97%. Even if they are part of the 3% that have not- How would those comments make you feel? Angry? Upset? Every woman is someone’s daughter, mother or sister and so on and so forth, I feel like a lot of people forget that.
In writing this, I am not saying that all men are dangerous or harmful to women so before people decide to argue that it is “not all men”, we are all fully aware that not all men are dangerous. I saw a post today on an Instagram account called @storyasyter_org which I feel as though sums up a response to that argument- “No one actually thinks all men. Just too many men. Just enough men to be afraid. Just enough men that all women have experienced it. Just enough to make it a social problem, not a personal one.” I personally believe that the only way we can all be effective in making change on this, is working together. That means working with men not against them, who we work against are perpetrators. So no, it isn’t all men but it is nearly all women. We need more men actively taking a stand to fight against violence towards women and shut down victim blaming.
So, if this issue is a social issue- how can we as a society begin to work towards a solution? Truthfully speaking, we are never going to be able to fully eradicate victim blaming or violence towards women. This is because there are some disgusting people, like in that comment section that cannot be helped.
What we can do is start talking to each other about what makes us feel safe. Stop saying to victims “maybe if you had done this…” and start saying “what would make you feel safer?” Stop dictating how women should behave or what they should wear in order to be safe. Start forgetting about what they were wearing or what and were doing because the fault is only the perpetrators.
I just wanted to finish off this blog by saying that fixing this issue is something that needs to be society wide, but it will always begin by looking at yourself first and thinking about what you can do to contribute to the change.
Here is a short clip put together by UN Women UK and Missing Link Films that I recommend giving a watch.