Blaming the Victim
Victim blaming is a form of verbal abuse that can frequently make victims of sexual assault, especially women, feel unsafe reporting their abuse.
By Cecelia Heckman
Society Shames Women for Sexual Activity, Perpetuates Sexual Violence
Slut. Whore. Thot. Tramp. Hoe.
When and how did these demeaning words become typical ways to address a female? Why is it that when a woman is sexually active, there is automatically a negative connotation attached to her?
Slut shaming is one of the most common ways victim blaming is present in day to day life. Whether recognized or not, slut shaming often works its way into daily conversations. When is the last time you used one of the above words, even as a joke?
“You’re either a virgin or you are a whore in our society,” Angela Rose, founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE), said. “It’s very hard to find that middle ground.”
Rose often provides workshops in high schools to teach positive sexual engagement in order to work on solutions against sexual violence.
“We do a lot of workshops in high schools and we always like to make a little chart of what are the stereotypical names for sexually active men compared to sexually active females, and it’s very, very different,” Rose said. “We see how often you talk about a sexually active male and it’s encouraging words, they’re stud, they’re this, they’re that, it’s something that, it’s a celebration of, you know, manhood and sexuality. Whereas, on the flip side, if you talk about any words that are associated with sexually active females it’s often very negative.”
This double-standard for sexual activity is not simply an issue of how we refer to men or women. Rather, the issue of slut shaming is much larger.
In many cases, women are so convinced that it is inappropriate for them to be sexually active that if the situation comes about where they are sexually abused, they do not feel comfortable reporting the assault.
“There’s a question in the hospital and it’s specifically for the forensic examination part of like they need to look at the DNA and be able to disconnect them. For women, they get asked, ‘Have you had sex in the last 5 days?’ And they always feel like oh my God if I say yes, even though it was consensual, they feel like they’re being judged,” Kimberly Link, a counselor advocate at Delaware County Women Against Rape, said. “Females just intrinsically I feel like, feel like they’re being called a slut whenever they say that they have consensual sex.”
Jennifer DiPillo, a senior attorney for the Crime Victims Law Project at Delaware County Women Against Rape, sees similar issues when working to defend female victims. “I think a lot of women have a problem talking about their sexual history, and then it becomes an issue, and in all honesty it shouldn’t but it does,” DiPillo said. “A lot of women decide that it’s just too much and they don’t wanna go down that road.”
Through continuing these standards, many abusers are walking free and many victims feel forced to keep the burden of their abuse to themselves for years, for fear of reporting and and being further judged.
By Cecelia Heckman