Rape culture is always cause of controversy regardless of the approach taken. As the world has reached a state in which truth is coming out and over-flooding the emotional system of the collective, silence is no longer acceptable, nor is abuse of any kind. First, the term used to name a person subjected to sexual abuse. There is a strong movement suggesting that the term used should be survivor, not victim. It is important how we view ourselves and what terms and words we employ to describe ourselves and others, therefore, survivor carries a meaningful and powerful intention to overcome trauma. In the case, the word victim can be used from the understanding that anyone subjected to sexual abuse has been the victim of a crime.
How we view ourselves, as well as the terms and names we use to describe who we are can either be empowering or weakening.
The subject is wide and there are numerous aspects to consider. Today's topic is the approach taken to defend the further abuse to what victims or survivors who decide to report are subjected with the acquiescence of the legal system, but also with that of the general population. To illustrate this I'd like to mention briefly a case that is currently in court in Spain, but there are multiple examples that will also be cited. Over a year ago, a 18 years old girl was the victim of an alleged gang raped by five men during a popular festivity in Pamplona. It must be mentioned that one of the members of the gang was a member of the Guardia Civil -police- and another, a member of the Spanish army. These are two characters that were trusted with the defense of people and the country. To call any of these individuals men or people would be an overstatement.
Their line of defense took them to hire a private detective to follow the survivor to demonstrate that she has been leading a 'normal' life. The fact that court accepted such report as 'evidence' is despicable and reason for popular outrage. However, there are many other people who still question her integrity and arguing that she continued with a normal life, which according to the defendants is proof that she agreed to it. It does not take much to reach for a popular banality to condemn others. Courts are filled with anonymous cases in which women, and in lesser number men are subjected to equal pantomimes question every detail of their lives, habits, especially their sexual life, which is nothing, but character assassination. It doesn't take much thought to repeat what someone heard from the unconscious popular voice, if any at all.
In this case, this woman continued with her life as a survivor, not as a victim. In most cases of trauma caused by any kind of abuse, people encapsulate the emotions attached to a particular situation being perfectly capable of leading a normal life. These emotions may might appear at a later stage -PTSD- when facing a situation, which even if they're not similar evoke the energy of the incident that caused the trauma, provoking setbacks and emotional reactions that manifest in a different ways depending on the person.
Encapsulating emotions attached to any trauma can be explained by dissociation, so yes, someone can continue living a normal life. Life is not what happens to us, but who and what we choose to be.
Rape carries a strong element of shame for both men and women. It is, in fact, the shame of men, as well as the shame of patriarchal society. Blaming someone for having been the victim of such crimes is a way of diffusing the shame involved in such despicable acts. People would do anything to avoid negative feelings and emotions, especially those that relate to rape culture, exhibiting their level of emotional maturity or social responsibility. The lack of empathy in these cases mirrors the encapsulation of strong emotions.
What is done to someone is done to everyone. Humanity cannot longer hide the head in the sand because "it's not happening to me."
Shame is what is done to us. The feeling of shame that arouses in a third person is due to the emotional and energetic connection with others, the fear involved in such violent act, the realisation of who powerless we are to stop a problem, which is now obvious that it is endemic. The shame of one is the shame of all, and for as long as the world is dedicated to point out what a girl wears or in which state of drunkenness she was, shame will prevail in all of us.
Blaming others only serves to increase the sensation of shame in the accuser, not the other way around.
Victims may live in shame for what has been done to them, as well as bearing the pressure of the social stigma that rape carries, which in turn prevents many women from reporting such incidents, knowing that as soon as it is open to public opinion, they will be mindlessly judged. In the case of men, there are not many bragging about their raping activities, not only because it is a criminal act that carries a prison sentence, but one that portraits their low character.
It has to be considered that many women have been subjected to sexual abuse as children, in most cases by figures of authority. When the perpetrator is a figure of authority, they employ charm, gifts, lies, threats and fear to guarantee the silence of the victim. The fact that it might be a repetitive act leads many people to assume that the girl or woman must have obtained some pleasure from it. It is easy to assume so when one has not suffered the experience. Whether the victim is a child or an adult, the psychological pressure, as well as the shame involved could make many sufferers to remain silent for years if not for life.
Patriarchy has trained women to live in silence or else.
Needless to say that men who suffered the same fate are affected in the same way, with the aggravation that in many cases the perpetrator is male, what may lead victims to question their sexual proclivity. At this point it is necessary to mention, that rape or sexual abuse is not worse for men than it is for women. Patriarchy would like everyone to believe so. Every trauma however small may be considered by others can have serious consequences in the development of a person. One has to experience the trauma to know what if feels like. No one should be ashamed of a trauma that might be viewed as minor. It is counter-productive to talk ourselves down by comparing a trauma that might not seem significant with another that involves more serious consequences.
Many men are also unable to deal with the shame of rape culture when they learn that a woman has been subjected to any kind of sexual abuse. It allegedly diminishes the male ego, which is then incapable of protecting a woman. The woman becomes 'damaged'. At this point, the individual shows whether he is a man or still a boy. A man can hold a nurturing and loving space in which a woman feels safe without histrionics or heroics. A nurturing space where she can express herself. A boy will either run away, shame the victim or worse, further abuse that person. The danger of being tagged with the victim status is that many people, both men and women understand it as a license to add to it with more abusive behaviour. This is when the terms victim or survivor make an incredible difference.
The force of patriarchy is oppressive, and while there might be many people that do not feel identified with it, the inertia of its powerful energy affects everyone. In recent years, patriarchy is exhibiting its shameless face, having reached a point in which it cannot longer be denied.
Women who dressed in what some people consider sexy clothing, revealing their bodies do so because they want to feel good about themselves, because they feel beautiful and comfortable in such outfits. They are not "asking for it."
Rape culture goes deeper, reaching the dark chambers and interiors of many families. The figure of the patriarch has imposed his will as the head of the family, sometimes taking the role of the abuser. Sexual abuse within families has the connivance of women that until recently made of silence their virtue. Many mothers and family members have turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of their daughters or family members. It's not an occurrence of the past, it continues happening today.
Not only this, they would blame the victims or simply deny that any mistreatment occurred. It is not surprising that women also blame other women for having endured such despicable acts. They have been absorbed by patriarchy embracing silence as the way to survive, denying the shame that touches all. This silence has been already broken. To change this reality requires the active involvement of everyone. If anyone can change the ways of the world, this is everyone of us. The sooner we realise that no one is coming to save us, the sooner we will begin to take responsibility making no excuses for the perpetrators.
The #MeToo movement has removed the foundations of patriarchy exposing a problem that is endemic in every institution created by man. It is has also created the perfect opportunity for women to express themselves safely, How we use this opportunity and whether we listen to the outcry or not determines who we are. It is up to every individual to take responsibility for the spaces we create and the energy that we bring into it.
Finally, having spoken to hundreds of women who have been subjected to rape or sexual abuse, in many cases within relationships, the choice in terms to describe them is somehow irrelevant. What remains is the amount of courage they showed me; not to survive, but to live and thrive. With courage one can forgive and overcome everything that happened to them. To blame them for what they had to endure is in itself shameful, but it is not their shame. Once again, shame is what is done to us. Take as long as you need to understand this.
When creating a safe space in which people can safely express themselves and talk about their traumas the synergy created uplifts the person, making any terms or tags useless. What happened to love, kindness, compassion or empathy? What happened to our humanity?
To blame the abused is to trivialise rape culture, and that makes the blamer part of the problem.
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