Hope and Mosleslie and GraceB;
I have been thinking of our attitudes to rape and how we as a society still very much have the blame the victim attitude, to the extent that most women still struggle with it or succumb to it themselves, even though intellectually they know such an attitude is wrong. I’ve been trying to think why that is.
The reality is that we live in a society where rape is pervasive and any one of us can be a victim at any time. Age, marital status, social status etc, DO NOT MATTER. That is an extremely scary thought and it brings with a feeling of helplessness. In order to combat that feeling we look away, because one wants to look into the face of an oncoming train that they believe they cannot avoid; we’d rather pretend it isn’t happening and hope it veers off at the last second.
We also unconsciously look for reasons why it cannot happen to “me” personally and I think maybe that is where the blaming of the victim comes in. “I wouldn’t have worn such a short skirt”, “I wouldn’t have been in that place at that time”, “I wouldn’t have had that drink” blah blah blah. It is comforting to think that the victim did have some control even though it seems a perverse way of thinking, because that gives us control. If I personally do all the right things, it can’t happen to me. It’s a coping mechanism in a situation where we feel we are essentially powerless and the perceived choices are to live in fear, pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, or find a way to control it as it pertains to our own self.
Of course the other and better choice is to not accept that rape is inevitable and somehow acceptable. The first part of that is to force ourselves and our society to look it square in the face and shine the light on the reality of it. We need to call out the media that digs up the dirt on the victim while ignoring the perpetrator’s responsibility. We need to call out the entertainment shows that use rape as a lazy plot device without showing the true ugliness of it (GoT are you listening?). We need to encourage entertainment that honestly shows the reality of rape as much as is possible. I’ve read comments from Outlander fans hoping that the show will not actually show Jamie’s experience in Wentworth because they don’t think they can bear seeing it. I believe that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Bandaging up a festering wound because you don’t want to look at it only allows it to continue to fester and eventually poison the entire body. You have to look at it square on and do what is needed to clean it out and let it heal. That can take courage which some may not have (maybe for good reasons based on their past experience). We need to understand those who can’t look and not condemn them, but those of us who can must look head on into the evil and refuse to let it continue to hide away in the dark in whatever small way we can. (I personally am not looking forward to Wentworth but I will watch because in my mind not doing so denies an essential truth in the story of Jamie and Claire.)
We need to support and assist victims and their families and we need to make rape of anyone – female, male, adult or child completely unacceptable. We can work to change the laws, but laws follow the beliefs of a society not vice versa. If we can change the belief system surrounding rape the laws will change to confirm to our beliefs.
Finally we need to support and care for each other and continue talking and listening and creating safe spaces for those who are in need of them, which is probably all of us at one time or another.
Thanks to all who have made this into one of those safe spaces. Maybe what we do here will be like a small stone thrown into a pond and will ripple out into the larger fandom and from there continue onward.