Victim Blaming

Hi, I’m Leah, and we need to talk, not the ‘fiddle-with-your-phone-while-I-speak’ talk, but the ‘stare-into-my-soul’ type. I was a victim of ‘friendly rape’. What does that mean? Let me explain.

I was sick and went to a friend’s house because I needed company. After a quick meal, I asked him to pass my meds; they seemed more than the usual, but you know, I trust him. Wrong move! A few minutes later I knew something was wrong, I couldn’t see clearly and I felt my strength slowly slipping away. As I passed out the picture became clearer; I had been drugged and would be raped or worse. As I slowly came-to, my heart did not want to accept what my head was saying; my virginity gone, with no signs of struggle, what was I to do? Call the police, my family, retaliate or run, as fast as I could?

My friend Nadia is a loving house-wife, with 2 children. She has been held hostage by her husband who tortures her psychologically; he knows she can’t leave because she doesn’t have any money of her own and her parents are against a divorce.

I know Blessing’s life is not much of a blessing, she is trapped in a violent relationship with a man who could win an ‘Oscar’. To the world he is perfect, but to her… Why stay? Her brother’s job and father’s medical bills depend on it.

You see, many women are victims of one sort of abuse or the other, society and the authorities seem to blame us. ‘Why was your dress so short? Why did you go there? You asked for it’ are common phrases used to interrogate, and borderline, accuse victims. A lot of societies still name and shame women who speak up against these acts, who share their personal stories and seek some form of justice. Stigmatization and victim blaming has forced many women to embrace silence. We seem to willingly neglect the other half of the story; the men who hurt these women. The man who turned a perfectly ‘okay’ woman into a ‘victim’. The man who feels his ego and urges are more valuable than his victim’s life.

Perhaps this problem has existed from the beginning of time, Adam ate the fruit, but blamed Eve for offering it to him. Why didn’t God blame and banish JUST Eve from the garden? I think it’s because Adam chose to eat the fruit (he was responsible for his actions). What is wrong with the way our men – husbands, brothers and sons – are being raised? I bet you, if a man is raised to love, respect and have compassion for women, even if she shows up in her birthday suit, he would look the other way.

Women empowerment should have its roots in male enlightenment. A reorientation of one gender, while forcing the other to live with the outcomes, can only lead to friction and the imbalance we are trying to avoid. Our men need to be raised to understand that strong men don’t take advantage of the weak; good men don’t hurt their ladies and the path to a healthy self-esteem is NOT in making others feel worthless.

Hurting people hurt others; so, should women fight the system, protest and carry placards? Or should we fix the way we raise our men? I think my answer is BOTH. What’s yours?

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