‘If She Could Fight…’

So the victim blaming wing of rape culture loves to put the responsibility of not getting raped onto potential victims, instead of putting the responsibility of not committing rape onto potential assailants. And one way this is accomplished is by the strong implication that victims are weak.

“If she could fight like Ronda Rousey, he couldn’t have attacked her. If men knew all women could fight like Laila Ali, fewer women would be attacked.”

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“If she carried mace…her keys between her fingers like Wolverine…if she always carried an umbrella…if she was self-defense/martial arts trained…”

“If he carried a knife…a gun…a fucking samurai sword…”

First…that’s not true. Because most sexual assaults are NOT surprise, violent attacks. They are non-consensual acts committed by a known acquaintance, or (worse) a date, ‘friend,’ or family member. Pardon the French, but even the most bad ass of people tend to let their guard down in situations like parties and long walks through a park and watching Netflix on the couch with someone they are supposed to have a level of trust with. In order for potential victims to truly prevent being raped (just typing that makes me feel dirty), they would have to stop all social association with other people (particularly feminine identifying people would have to stop all social interaction with masculine identifying people, but actually…most other people). So…be a hermit. Good plan. (Again…still waiting on that sarcasm font.)
Second…for the assaults that ARE surprise, violent attacks, it’s not my responsibility to train myself in violent acts, and have the heart and mind to use violent acts against other people, when that is not how my heart and mind are naturally wired, in order to protect myself against others who would commit violent acts against me. Violence is not a solution I choose to any problem. Period. Would I fight back if I were being attacked, or if J or my child was being attacked? Of course I would. But me knowing how to fight ‘properly’ still didn’t *prevent* the attack. It COULD thwart it. Or it could not. Because even if I am Laila Ali, if my attacker is Mike Tyson, I still lose. And even if I successfully fend off an actual rape? I’m still traumatized. Because I had to use violence against another person, and I am probably physically injured, at least in a minor way, and the mental and emotional scars are still going to be there, just in slightly altered forms. 

And the thing that bothers me the most about these, ‘If you follow all these rules, you won’t get raped,’ is…it implies that the rule breakers deserve to be raped. If you don’t train to use violence to defend yourself…you deserve to be victimized. If you don’t look or act this certain way…you deserve to be victimized. And if you DO everything exactly right, you are sending a message to potential assailants to *attack that other person instead.* I can’t live with those implications myself. I even follow most of the ‘rules,’ because I’m a naturally modest, private person who is very slow to trust and I don’t go out much. But that certainly doesn’t mean I think people (particularly women) who aren’t as shy and retiring and as closed off as me ‘get what they deserve,’ and I don’t think they should all be MMA fighters to fend off rape. 

Rape is never ever…not even ONCE…the victim’s fault. And regardless of the victim’s decisions and behavior prior to the attack, nothing he or she could do could have prevented it. Just the same as getting hit by a drunk driver is not the victim’s fault, even if they are driving at 3 a.m. on a Friday night St. Patrick’s Day, when they knew damn well there would be drunks driving out there. Just like being robbed of a wallet is not the victim’s fault, even if they were walking in an unlit, deserted alley alone, where they have seen countless fictional (and maybe even some real life) muggings happen. To prevent rape and sexual assault we must actively TEACH what consent is, and that sexual contact without consent is sexual assault, so DON’T do that. Just like we teach don’t drink and drive. Just like we teach don’t steal stuff that’s not yours. And I think fiction is an excellent vehicle for that. That’s why I’ll keep writing love stories that glorify enthusiastic, informed consent. 

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