“Judge in rape case: ‘Keep your knees together’”.
“Lawyer characterizes the assault of two teenage girls as ‘teen mistake’”.
Sadly, these headlines probably don’t come as a shock to you. We’re finally talking about sexual assault and rape culture, and with that, the horrific practice of victim blaming.
In light of CC and Whitney’s recent articles, I have spent a significant amount of time on social media, particularly in the comments sections. Most of what I’ve seen has made me proud to be a Spider. The Richmond community has come together to demand justice for survivors and create positive change. Unfortunately, a small percentage of these comments are victim blaming. To the people making those comments: STOP.
Imagine this scenario: You and a friend are having a conversation in your home about politics. It starts to get heated. You begin arguing, yelling at each other. Suddenly, your friend hits you. You’re so shocked that you can’t defend yourself. You beg them to stop multiple times to no avail. Your friend suddenly pushes you backwards down the stairs, breaking your back. You’re motionless, barely breathing. Your friend runs off. Someone finds you, luckily just minutes later. You’re in shock, can barely speak as you’re rushed to the hospital. Luckily, the doctors are able to save you. But the way you broke your back will leave you paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of your life. Every day will be a constant reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to you. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Now, imagine you’re still in the hospital recovering. You’ve gotten many visitors, all of whom brought flowers, your favorite foods, and their laptops to watch your favorite shows with you. They’ve offered nothing but support. Thankfully, you have a wonderful group of people to help you through this.
As you continue to recover, you decide to press charges against your former friend and details of the incident start to slip out to the public. You turn on the television above your hospital bed. People you’ve never seen before are speaking into the camera, seemingly right at you.
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“Why didn’t you just move away from the stairs?”
“You really shouldn’t have been arguing about politics if you didn’t want something bad to happen.”
“Did your friend really push you, or did you throw yourself down the stairs for attention?”
“Your friend probably didn’t mean it. Are you really going to try to ruin their entire life over one little thing?”
You’re shocked and hurt. How could anyone believe you were lying? This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. And no one they’re talking to was even there. You don’t even know them!
The same comments are plastered all over social media. You can’t escape it. This sends you into deep depression, makes you doubt your own sanity. You are overcome with thoughts of suicide. Maybe you go through with it.
I speak on this as an ally, a supporter and a survivor. This is what victim blaming does. To add to that, the best way you can support a survivor is not to pick up a pitchfork and run to the accused’s front door. Tell them you are there for them, you believe them and you will help them in any way you can.
Sexual assault is a violent crime, no matter the circumstances. If you weren’t there, how can you begin to blame the victim? If you don’t believe them, that’s your right, but be quiet. Slandering them and tearing them apart online does nothing for you and hurts them. Think of the consequences. I am all for First Amendment rights, but words are incredibly powerful, so use them the right way.
Melissa Cooper is a 2016 WC graduate.
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