It is obvious that many people place the blame on victims for the attacks they have been through. Victim blaming happens consistently for survivors of sexual assault. People ask questions like, “What was she wearing?” “Why was she alone?” and make comments that let men off the hook, because how can we possibly expect them to control themselves?
Thankfully, we have found a solution to all of this. Take a self defense class, it’s really that simple. All you have to do is learn how to “properly react.” We all know that ultimately, women’s safety boils down to them, not the people who are assaulting them.
Does that sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. We live in a world where some people think it’s OK to place the responsibility on women to learn how to defend themselves against assault. Apparently self defense classes should be mandatory. You know what might be a better idea? Teaching people how to not rape.
It makes sense. Sexual assault (and assault in general) would completely go away if people would stop doing it.
Instead of mandatory self defense classes, we should be pressing for mandatory classes teaching about gender-based violence. We should be wondering why men are almost always the perpetrators in sexual violence.
Why are we less worried about why a rapist raped someone than what the victim was wearing?
I don’t believe that men are unable to control themselves. I don’t believe that a woman wearing skimpy or even no clothes tempts a man to rape her. I don’t understand why I can’t feel safe walking alone at night because I might be “asking for it.”
When people say that women need to take self defense classes to prevent sexual assault, they are really saying that we can’t expect men to stop raping women.
I am going to go out on a limb and give men a little more credit than that. Yes, I have faith in you that you don’t have to sexually assault women. I believe that men don’t need to feel threatened by a woman for them to decide against attacking her. I am tired of hearing how women need to take matters into their own hands.
Quite honestly, I should be able to walk down a dark alley at 2 a.m., naked and drunk. I should be able to do the same at a party or in my own home and not be sexually assaulted. Because no matter how I am dressed, how drunk I am, or how little self defense training I have, I am not asking to be assaulted. We need to start blaming the person who commits a crime instead of the person who is a victim of it.
I am all for being prepared. If it makes people feel safer to take a self defense class, go for it. But let’s not frame it in a way that places blame on victims who did not “learn how to protect themselves.” And let’s also not forget that putting this burden on anyone is unfair because of the assumption that everyone has access to and can afford these classes.
Another thing to remember is that most sexual assaults occur when the victim feels safe and is with someone they trust. So self defense, pepper spray and wearing your hair in a ponytail (or not in a ponytail, I can’t remember but I have short hair so what do I do to avoid assault?) don’t come in handy for most victims of sexual assault. The only way to prevent assault is to not assault.
Michaela is a second year Ethnic Studies student who likes feedback. You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.