January 16, 2013

Rethinking the analogies of sexual assault

This blog post has been written by Pei En, a SASC volunteer.

For people working to support sexual assault survivors and end victim-blaming, one analogy that often comes up is, “If it’s ok to tell people to keep an eye on their belongings/lock their houses/not wear expensive jewellery, why isn’t it ok to tell women not to wear revealing clothing/walk around at night/go out drinking?” This is analogous to the obviously faulty claim that a victim of a racial hate crime was “asking for it” by wearing clothing representative of his/her ethnic group, speaking a language other than English or walking around in parts of the city predominantly inhabited by members of another race. 

We mostly accept that people have a right to express their cultural identity and to move freely around their country without fear of violence. Why do so many people not acknowledge that women have these rights too? And why is it that gender-based violence often gets compared to property crimes rather than racial hate crimes? One reason for this could be the way in which women’s bodies are objectified and commodified –a woman’s body is not seen as a natural and integral part of her identity like her soul and spirit. Instead, it is viewed as a public good to be judged and sometimes even purchased or used.

We need to re-imagine the relationship between women and their bodies, and reword the ways in which sexual assault is discussed. Only then can we work towards ending rape culture.

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