the daily telegraph – thanks for contributing to victim blaming
Last week I was unlucky enough to come across an article in the Daily Telegraph entitled ‘More women are getting drunk on Sydney streets than ever before’. It was the usual article about women and sexual assault, i.e. how women can avoid getting assaulted if they simply stop being so darn silly and reckless all the time. In this particular piece, their reckless behaviour was consuming alcohol.
Now I’m risking quite the backlash here, but I do understand Janet Fife-Yeomans’ and Daniela Ongaro’s argument in the article. I do see the point of view from those who cry ‘we are just looking after their safety!’. Because it is easy to look at the statistics and the vulnerability that things like too much alcohol can contribute to, and decide that there is an easy solution. What people don’t realise is that by blaming the victims or acting as if sexual assault is somehow within a victim’s control, they themselves are contributing to a society that will never be safe for women.
What I found interesting about this particular piece was that in the first paragraph, it is mentioned that ‘more than 80 per cent of all sexual offences, including rape and indecent assault, involve either the victim or the offender being affected by alcohol, an analysis of police data for Sydney shows.’ They clearly state that the offender may often be affected by alcohol, and yet not once was this mentioned again. Women were urged to stop drinking to keep them safe, but there was not a word about men (and women) avoiding alcohol because, according to their statistics, they will be more likely to sexual assault someone.
I have been so frustrated with attitudes like the ones expressed in this piece, having seen so many articles and news stories in the last year urging women to ‘look after themselves’ and avoid alcohol, dark streets, strangers, and wearing ponytails (yes, you read that right); yet at the same time having seen nothing targeting the offenders – at least not in mainstream media.
Sexual assault has almost been put down as a fact of life that can’t ever be changed, and with this idea comes an attitude that we all need to make sure we take precautions to avoid becoming a victim. Because of this, it is assumed that if we do not take precautions (which are forever changing and growing, so one can’t possibly know what all of them are) then we are partly if not entirely to blame if we are sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault doesn’t happen because of the victim’s actions. It happens only because of an offender’s actions. The onus should not be on people to not get sexually assaulted, but should be placed solely on the shoulders of those who are to blame: the offenders themselves.
Safety advice on how not to get attacked doesn’t stop sexual assault. It just makes victim blaming more deeply ingrained in our culture. And as long as we continue to focus on what the victim is ‘doing wrong’, the easier it is for offenders to get away with it. After all, in the eyes of the media, it’s not their fault – the victims should have been more careful.