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Stop blaming victims and survivors of sexual assualt

Phina So
June21/ 2014

Recently, there was an article in a local newspaper which was simply very wrong. It wrote “A widow with one child, who smells like a burned coconut, attracts a man to beg for her love. Finally, he became an offender”. A title like this is not rare. We often see media do this. And the title is simply an example how people blame the victims.

The article reports about a widow with one child. She is young and beautiful. They compare her beauty to a smell of a burned coconut. In Cambodia, the smell of the coconut is so attractive that there is no one can stand not to have it. Similarly, the smell of the widow’s beauty attracted men. So, men can’t help but come to her to beg for love. In the article, the man (the offender) broke her window and asked for her hand. Though the news does not really explore what was going on while he was with her, the man really did broke into her house. She refused his invasive request and reported to the police. As a result, the man was sent to the court.

What do you gain from the article? You probably read and first thought came to your mind is that she is the one who asked for it and it was her fault not his. Likewise, it was the victim’s fault, not the offender’s. It is unfair.

Victim blaming occurs at every corner of the world. Cambodia is just an example. We often hear people/media say/report the following whenever they hear/report a story of rape/sexual assault:

  • She wears very short
  • Why did she walk alone at night?
  • She was drunk
  • Her body was very white/attractive
  • Why did she didn’t shout for help?
  • Why did she go with them anyway?
  • He is a good guy. I know him.
  • Aren’t there anyone warn her not to stay late?

These questions/comments put the blame on victims and survivors of rape, gang rape, and sexual assault. While these idea do not help the victims, they agonizingly address that the victims are the ones that provoke the attack. It is her white body that attract her offender. It is her short skirt that invites her rapist. It is her drinking behavior. It is due to she walks alone at night.  In fact, these thoughts prevent people from thinking that victims are the ones that need help and they should not put the blame of them. Consequently, the blame should be put on the rapists who actually the ones that commit the crime on their victims. We must keep the message clear that there is no one has the right to RAPE other people by judging her/his dress, ways she drinks, and other behavior.

In stead of pointing finger to the victim, people should think of other ways to protect the victims. For example, in stead of saying she should not walk at night, they should have said that “the street should have equipped light and the local police should guard often”. Anther example can be “we should teach our sons and daughters more about rape and its consequences”. While ones besides the victims themselves could not understand how  rape/assault hurt the victims, having scared social services in our country plus blaming culture and discrimination, it takes life for them to recover from those stigma.

Let’s bear in mind that the victim blaming culture should be stopped. Media must take sharp commitment in addressing this issue by not labeling the naked body of victims (which vast majority of them are women and young children). They should avoid using words that demean sufferers such as the title mentioned earlier. They should put more effort by employing/engaging social workers to help inspect/advise on words used especially cases involved rape so that they can minimize the negative impact on victims.

Photo credit: KSPR News