Warning: The following content discusses sexual assault.
Usually, it is easy for me to assert my feminine liberties, meaning that I am a whole person who deserves respect despite how little I wear and how sexual I am perceived to be. I will scream and shout about how I can be sexual and that does not give anyone the right to touch or try me. But then, I get assaulted. At this point, deserving respect is the hardest thing for me to believe.
Sometimes it’s easier to believe that there is something you can do to stop it next time. Sometimes it’s easier to find safety in wearing a bit more. Sometimes it’s easier to find protection in only going out when the sun is up, or when you are surrounded by your home girls. Sometimes it’s easier to believe the crap we’re fed because, let’s face it, nothing is scarier than knowing that, no matter what, you will always be helpless and at the mercy of men who see you as nothing but their own personal endless well of whatever they desire at the moment.
While acknowledging the inconsistencies that lie within blaming the victim, I instinctively retreat to that very thinking when faced with the situation of being the victim. I unconsciously feel shame in the very same clothes that make me feel most comfortable and free. I automatically feel like I am at fault when I am sexually assaulted, with the thinking of maybe if I was a little less *me* then maybe this wouldn’t happen so much. This is a lot easier for me to wrap my head around instead of believing that some men truly think I am deserving of this magnitude of violence.
Despite me being the victim, I was reared in submission to the same rape culture my rapists’ have. Just like with racism and misogyny, victims of sexual violence often turn to internalizing their trauma. Coming to understand that the world is scary and has intentions of destroying me isn’t exactly an easy pill to swallow. Sometimes it’s easier to blame myself because that means I at least have some sort of control over the situation. Sometimes it’s easier to not accept reality because accepting reality means not being able to function for a few days, weeks, even months.
Victim blaming is not right or healthy at all. As hard as it is to accept the fact that I am a victim of sexual assault, it is the first step to changing the narrative of my life. Victim blaming myself will not make me feel better in the long run, nor will it save me the next time I am preyed upon. But it is hard to understand this right after an assault. This is why it is so important to affirm and believe survivors. This is the importance of a support group that understands sexual assault and is ready to remind you that it is never your fault. If it were not for my lovely circle of friends, I would have continued to internalize and blame myself for violence I could not have stopped. I would have continued to be disgusted with myself over something that I had no control over.
In closing I am nowhere close to healed or whole. However, I am at a level of peace and calmness I would never have reached if I were not surrounded by people who believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.
Thank you for taking the time to read, “The Self-blaming Victim”. If you enjoyed this article or it has moved you in any way, please consider supporting the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights at www.loweryinstitute.org. Let us be the change!