This blog comes from Leslie, a local high school student who wanted to share her thoughts about the way society places responsibility for being sexually assaulted or raped on the victim, instead of the perpetrator. Thank you to Leslie for this piece. If you’d like to be a guest blogger for GENaustin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I got invited to my first high school party, I can’t even explain how excited I was. This was my opportunity to break free of middle school and make my debut into the social scene as an official high school student. So obviously the first thing that would be on my mind concerning the party would be what outfit to wear. I called up an old friend of mine who happened to be a senior boy and asked him to be a consultant in regards to my outfit, because he obviously would know better than I would what to wear to this party. I showed him an outfit that was pretty formfitting, and the reaction that I received shocked me. He told me that I couldn’t wear the dress because I looked like a slut and someone would rape me and it would be my fault because I dressed that way. Think about it. A teenage boy was telling a teenage girl that she couldn’t wear an outfit because she would be asking for rape and it would be her fault as well.
With ideas like this being spoken or thought, I think it’s long overdue for us to have….The talk. This gigantic “clothes cause rape” elephant has been in the living room of society for far too long, and I know it’s an extremely uncomfortable subject, but we need to discuss it, and keep discussing it. Every 2 minutes, a woman in the USA is sexually assaulted, says RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). Our society has a tendency to blame the victim because she dressed a certain way; we live in a “She’s Asking for It” culture. However, rape, under no circumstance, should ever be pinned on the victim, no matter what she wore.
Women dress to feel comfortable, to feel pretty, and to have confidence in themselves, and every woman has a particular style that accomplishes these goals for her. But society is indirectly taking away this freedom of expression by limiting what we’re allowed to wear by blaming sexual violence on the victim. This victim-blaming idea is demonstrated perfectly in a study called “Wake Up to Rape” by the New Haven Sexual Assault Referral Centers. 56% of women surveyed said that they believed rape victims should take responsibility for what happened to them. 28% (more than 1/4) of survey respondents said that culpability lies with the victim if she dressed provocatively. Because of these attitudes, more than 50% of women believed they would be too embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone of what happened to them. Maybe that’s why out of the roughly 200,000 sexual assault victims (12 or older) each year, less than half will ever report their assault to the police. We should be taking care of the victims, not making them feel even worse about what happened to them.
Elizabeth Harrison from the New Haven Sexual Assault Referral Centers sums it up perfectly when she says, “Clearly, women are in a position where they need to take responsibility for themselves – but whatever you wear and whatever you do does not give somebody else the right to rape you.” If a girl was walking by a group of high school football players hanging out without their shirts on, she obviously couldn’t resist running her hands over their washboard abs. They were asking for it, right? She couldn’t stop herself, right? Then why is there that double standard? No one has a right to your body except for you. Hopefully America will start changing their perspective on rape and victim-blaming soon, before countless other women and girls take responsibility for a crime that they didn’t commit.
Clothes don’t speak. But I do. And I’m telling you, “I’m not asking for it.” No woman is. No matter what she wears.