Memories are still fresh of a visibly distressed girl held by the hand by a policewoman in Limbe. The girl, completely naked, is seen crying as a mob of people mostly men behind her, laugh at her while another man finds pleasure in touching her breasts—I am sure the other men were envious of this ‘courageous’ man and cursed themselves for not being the ones enjoying the feel of the girl’s breasts.
The policewoman looks to be in good spirits, too, and was also enjoying what was happening or perhaps she was overjoyed that she had done a tremendous job of rescuing the girl. She didn’t see any problem with parading her uncovered as she was.
There is everything wrong with that picture—from the shop owner who handed the girl to the mob to the men ogling at her and the smiling policewoman parading her in the often crowded streets of Limbe. It breaks my heart.
As usual, there were lots of stories justifying what had happened. Some said she was caught stealing while other claimed she was a prostitute selling her body and the men did what she asked for it. However, it sadly turned out that the girl has mental problems.
My heart still bleeds when I hear people, and in some instances, women saying she deserved what happened to her. Essentially, they are saying she got what she wanted.
There is a real bad culture in this country—the culture of blaming victims, especially rape victims. Oftentimes, people don’t bother to hear details of the crime, but will be quick to ask: “What did she do to be raped? What and how was she dressed?”
Often the conclusion is that she was dressed in a mini or exposed parts of her body, hence she deserved the rape because she basically was asking for it with her revealing dress.
Victim-blaming comes in many forms, and is oftentimes more subtle and unconscious. It can apply to cases of rape and sexual assault, but also to more mundane crimes—like a person who gets pick-pocketed and is then chided for deciding to carry his wallet in his back pocket. Any time someone defaults to questioning what a victim could have done differently to prevent a crime, he or she is participating, to some degree, in the culture of victim-blaming.
Rape, and indeed any sexual assault, can never be justified. Even if a woman walks around in her birthday suit or flirts with a man, that doesn’t justify rape. It breaks my heart every time a woman is blamed for being sexually assaulted. Some even go as far as saying that just because she is a prostitute, sexually assaulting her is ok. No, it’s not ok.
Many people find it easy to blame the victim perhaps because of their proximity to the victim. They may not feel the pain because they are not related to the victim. But imagine the same happening to those near and dear to you? Would you say the same things that you say to others?
Sexual assault cannot be justified. The way a woman dresses does not mean she is asking to be assaulted. This victim blaming culture has to stop. It does nothing except perpetuate the problem. n