content note: discussion of victim blaming, sexual assault
Today, while checking my newsfeed on Facebook, I came across a news post by The Botswana Gazette. The report stated that a man had been arrested for allegedly raping his girlfriend and that he was due to appear in court soon. I thought it would be telling to see what the ‘public reaction’ was from my fellow Batswana so I read the comments. And what did I find? A whole lot of victim-blaming 😦
Victim-blaming is basically when survivors of crimes are blamed for the harm they experience. In the context of sexual crimes, it’s when survivors are interrogated about what they did,wore or said to their attacker to prompt a sexual assault or harassment. Victim-blaming is horrible because it makes survivors of horrific crimes feel even worse by having to prove to society that they didn’t do anything to deserve it. The survivor has to prove that they didn’t do anything to deserve being raped/sexually harassed. Think about that.
To illustrate victim-blaming, I’ll translate/quote some of the responses seen on the Gazette post :
- “She’s lying.”
- “There is no rape in love/relationships”
- “Do you get money if you get raped or something?”
- ” When [women] are simply touched, they cry rape.”
- “Is this written correctly? She didn’t want to have sex with him?”
- “I smell a rat. She’s just after destroying an innocent dude.”
Without personally knowing the man or woman involved in this particular case and without knowing the outcome of a police investigation, over 400 people publicly decided that the woman was guilty. Just like that. The message was clear. “She couldn’t have possibly been raped by her boyfriend and is probably trying to ruin his life because he wouldn’t give her money.”
Women have been able to vote and work for as much money as men for a few decades. However, gender equality doesn’t end at legislation. Women are not free if they don’t feel safe walking around, can’t wear what they feel comfortable in and (like the woman in the news report)are put on trial by society when they seek justice. I use Setswana society as an example because I can only speak about what I know. However, the practice of victim-blaming happens all over the world. If we’re going to actually make the world a better place, where equality and justice are not myths, we can start by making it a better place for women. To do that, it is vital that we believe rape survivors when they speak up, and think about our own actions and attitudes, so that we don’t contribute to a society that condones sexual violence.