Hi, my name is Jenny -you can call me just "J" for short. Also, I will formally introduce my best friend, Baloo (a rescue pup) who is pictured above. I am currenlty an Anthropology major (ex-Forensic Science Major) here at John Jay and a part of the Macaulay Honors College as well. My interest in gender studies first developed after carrying out a project involving S.A.F.E. kits and their backlog, and continued to grow after I started interning with the Crime Victims Treatment Center located here in New York City. I work as a crisis counselor for CVTC and taking courses in gender studies has become a big part of my work as well. These courses allow me to improve the ways in which I work with my survivors.
Victim Blaming: NEVER Asking For It
Recently there has been a social media movement mostly on Twitter and Instagram that involve the usage of the hashtag “Me too.” This movement did its job of shedding more light on the topic sexual assault, and I think one of the most important outcomes of this movement was the sharing of these stories from the perspective of the victim. Many times we read stories of sexual assault on the internet or in the news that are written from the perspective of an outsider looking-in and alienates the reader from the assault that took place to a real person. However, what also resulted from this social media movement was the appearance of internet trolls that reared their ugly heads and decided to take it upon themselves to attack the narratives of these survivors. Most of the negative comments that were being made were different versions of victim-blaming. This brings us to the purpose of this essay – to attempt to briefly explain victim blaming and the harm that it does to survivors.
Victim-blaming is a topic that will need more than just this essay to fully explain; however I will attempt to at least make it a little easier to understand through my words. Victim-blaming can occur in many forms and in many different situations. One of the most common and generic examples of victim-blaming would be the questions or comments that are directed towards some survivors by their peers, family, or even officials such as police officers. The questions of “What were you wearing when it happened?” or “Where you being flirtatious?” all direct the blame towards the victims. Also, statements such as “You shouldn’t have been wearing X,Y,Z.” or “You shouldn’t have been out drinking so late,” make the victims seem like they were responsible for their own assault –which is clearly not the case.
Another specific example of institutionalized victim-blaming is the “risk-management” approach taken by many colleges to combat sexual assault on campus. In the article, “Sexual Assault Prevention on College Campuses, using Community Based Participatory Research Strategies to Craft a Creative Response” by Adrianne Beer, Beer describes “risk management” as “education surrounding the ways in which students can decrease their chances of being sexually assaulted.” (Beer, 4) “Risk management” also involves suggestions that students “[avoid] walking by oneself at night, [minimize] ones drinking, [watch] over one’s alcoholic beverage, and avoid putting oneself in an isolated location.” (Beer, 4) These are all examples of how colleges do not attempt to deal with the issue of the perpetrators, but rather choose to put all of the responsibility on survivors. This form of victim-blaming also does not encourage survivors to speak out about their sexual assault or seek campus help because according to these risk-management guidelines or suggestions, they are responsible for their own assault. Beer herself also expresses her dislike for this campus strategy and how ineffective it is at preventing on-campus sexual assault by stating, “Risk management is prevention that surrounds the belief that victims can avoid being sexually assaulted. […] it puts the responsibility on the victim, when it should be the assailant.” (Beer, 5)
As a college student, and as a sexual assault and domestic violence crisis counselor for CVTC, the issue of victim-blaming is something that I am constantly speaking out about and battling against. Survivors of sexual assault should not be made responsible for the crime being committed against. Imagine being robbed and then being asked, “But did you make any indication to the perpetrator that you wanted to be robbed?” Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? So why should it be any different when it comes to the crime of sexual assault? Victim-blaming is telling the survivors that their stories do not matter, and that they were assaulted because they were somehow “asking for it.”
Beer, A. (2016). Sexual Assault Prevention on College Campuses. Bowling Green University Scholar Works. doi:10.4324/9781315674056
A Few Resources for Survivors:
Address: 126 W 60th St, New York, NY 10023
Phone: (212) 523-4728
Address (NYC Location): 1753 Park Ave #1, New York, NY 10035
Phone: (212) 316-2100
Website (Hyperlinked above as well): https://www.justice.gov/ovw/protecting-students-sexual- assault