“What were you wearing?”
“Did you know the rapist?”
“What time was it, was it late?”
What is common among all these questions? Sadly, these are the questions that take precedence over others when a woman tries to report an incident of sexual assault in India (and probably several other countries in the world). Why is it so difficult for us to understand that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor but the perpetrator? Why are we still blaming the survivor/victim’s clothes or behaviour for what we often term as ‘asking for it’- because trust me, I will ask for it if I want it.
Till when will we save the violators with ridiculous explanations like “she was wearing short clothes, she was drinking, she was smoking, etc”? When will we understand that clothes, however short or revealing, do not equal consent or the fact that just because a woman was out late at night, partying with her friends or drinking – doesn’t mean she’s yours to take advantage of!
In fact, to debunk the connection that people make between sexual assault and short clothes, the Centre Communautaire Maritime in Brussels put up an exhibition that featured clothing items worn by survivor/victims of rape. If you’re wondering what all was part of that eye-opening exhibition, then the exhibition features items such as pyjamas, tracksuits and even a child’s My Little Pony shirt and not just short clothes, as one might expect. This clearly proves that short clothes and sexual assault cannot be linked together.
Honestly, it’s not just the perpetrator’s fault if we think about it, it’s also the society’s. The way it normalises and responds to sexual assault as a whole is problematic. In a society where the survivor/victim is looked down upon more than the perpetrator, rape culture is bound to flourish. No matter how many candle marches we carry out, nothing will change until we stop telling men that women are their property and instead teach them how to respect women from an early age.
Trust me, I will ask for it if I want it.
Sexual assault isn’t simply about a person’s sexual desires, it has more to do with the three P’s: Patriarchy, Power and Property. A patriarchal society where the power rests with the men and women are simply considered to be their property will always shame the woman. A society where a woman’s, as well as her family’s ‘honour’, is put into her vagina will always be prone to gender-based injustice. A society where the media reports a rape case using the word ‘sex scandal’, will always stigmatise the survivor.
According to a myriad of surveys, over 80% of women experience some form of sexual harassment or violence in their lives. Sadly, that’s one thing that we all usually have in common. No matter how much we try, the change needs to start from the grassroots level, at our homes, at our schools.
Yes, it’s difficult, but it needs to be done because every time parents place an 8 PM curfew on their daughter and none on their son, they’re adding to rape culture. Every time, a teacher sends a girl back to her home because the length of her skirt is too ‘distracting’ for the boys, s/he’s adding to rape culture.
Every time you don’t call out someone’s blatant sexism or every time we judge a woman’s character by the length of her clothes or by the number of drinks she’s had, we’re contributing to rape culture. We all love being called ‘modern’, but we refuse to change the way we think. So, let us do some unlearning and do our part in not adding to rape culture by holding the culprit accountable and not the survivor/victim?
Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: Art and Women Fall 2018