Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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The Problem with Rape Culture and Victim Blaming Mentality

I remember it was summer time. People were sweating, and the weather app was sending out heat warnings. I was up in my room, facing the mirror, picking out appropriate clothes to wear for school, and the weather. In my hands, I was holding a regular shirt and jean shorts that werent too short, but not too long either. I decided to try them on and see how I feel about them. My mom then came into the room and saw me wearing the outfit and immediately gave me a wide eye look. In a disapproving tone, she said “That’s what you’re wearing to school?”.

 That sentence alone was enough to stop me in my tracks and rethink the outfit entirely. I thought that maybe the jean shorts and shirt didn’t look good together, or maybe it was the way that the clothes sat on my body. I don’t usually wear jean shorts in the summer and I assumed that was why my mom made the reaction. I actually liked my outfit. It wasn’t anything crazy. For me, It was the perfect laid back outfit for school, and the warm weather. She then proceeded to say “Well you’re not wearing that to go to school because you take public transportation and with that outfit of yours, you’re like prey to the guys out there”. I was caught off guard for various reasons, although I knew she meant well and I appreciated her protectiveness towards me. Nonetheless, her comments still made me feel uneasy. I didn’t respond back because I was unsure on what to say. 

A part of me understood where she ws coming from because I’ve been catcalled in the past while riding the bus and I wasn’t even wearing anything provocative. But, a part of me was also saddened by the fact that I had to think of the possible consequences that I may face when wearing certain clothes outdoors as a woman. Not only that, I didn’t say anything back to her because I wanted to convince myself that maybe it’s better to play it safe, avoid conflict and change how I dress. I still thought of the many scenarios were things could go wrong with my outfit while taking public transportation. Then, it dawned on me that my outfit was not the problem. The problem was rape culture and the victim blaming mentality. The issue with rape culture is that it fails to create a safe space for a victims’ harrowing experience to be recognized and be validated. Victim blaming in rape culture can appear in many forms. It could be seen in a form of blaming the victim for letting it happen to them or justifying that they deserved it because they “provoked” their perpetrators. In my case, The victim blaming mentality manifested in my mom’s words. It almost convinced me that I should change how I dress so I wouldn’t get sexually harassed by men. But, I’ve learned that changing how I dress could never solve the actual problem. My clothes are not what makes me vulnerable to experiencing sexual harassment but objectification is what perpetuates it. It is important to address the stigmas around sexual assault, harrassment and abuse. I learned that we should focus on creating a judgment free space for victims’ to feel heard, understood and validated. Having more empathy towards them and taking into account the circumstances, struggles and other factors that were out of their control are all significant in combating the victim mentality mindset. This experience opened my eyes to how easy it is to be convinced that what you wear is an invitation for others to violate you. At the end of the day, clothes or anything else for that matter are not an invitation for harassment nor assault.