Why is it that almost all of the survivors blame themselves? The answer is two fold: 1) They are encouraged to think that. Survivors are still blamed for what they were wearing, or drinking, or their choice of venue, or the company they keep. 2) Its easier to blame one’s self. The idea that you could be subject to something so random and awful is terrifying. If you blame yourself instead, you gain an illusory control and think that just maybe you can keep it from happening again.
Try this on. Imagine a house in the path of a hurricane and then imagine the following conversation. “Why was that house painted blue? Everyone knows that hurricanes can’t resist the color blue.” “And what about those hurricane enticing trees all over the front yard?” “The worst part of it was that all of the windows were wide open.” “I heard that the front door was open too.” “Well, everyone knows what that means! I mean how could that poor defenseless hurricane resist?” “That house practically threw itself at that hurricane.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course, sexual assault is different, and worse, because it happens at the hands of a human being that we assume should be able to see the humanity in other humans. In fact, the assailant is usually an acquaintance or family member.
A colleague used to work with men in prison. He asked a man convicted of multiple rapes how he chose his victims. The prisoner immediately explained that it wasn’t a question choosing a victim, it was a question about whether or not he had decided to commit a rape that day. On the days that he had decided to rape, he said, a woman could walk by in a suit of armor and he would still get to her. On the days that he had decided not to rape, a woman could walk by him naked and he would give her his coat.
When someone is sexually assaulted, it’s because they were unfortunate enough to get in the way of someone who decided to sexually assault. They just happened to be in the path of a hurricane. That’s the simple and awful truth. And all of that shame that they might be carrying? It’s not theirs. It belongs to the assailant. Send it back where it belongs.