I feel as though with the willingness for people to accept that we should not be victim blaming, some people are taking this to the extreme. It seems as though they are attempting to take away the victim’s responsibility for their own actions, under the guise that it is victim blaming if we call attention to their behaviour that may have contributed to the situation.
Blaming victims of anything that has been done to them is wrong
But it is equally as wrong to take away their responsibility of their own actions that could have helped contribute to the situation. Your actions have consequences and while you may be free to choose how to dress, speak and act, you are not free to choose what the consequences of those actions are.
It is not the victim’s fault that someone has done anything hurtful to them. We cannot control another person’s actions or words. We cannot control how another person will respond to anything we say or do. Our actions can and do affect other people, and though we cannot blame a victim for what has happened to them, they do need to take responsibility for their own actions that could have put them in danger of being in such a situation in the first place.
Think of it like this, if you were a firefighter, would you go into a burning building without wearing protective gear? Of course not! You run the risk of catching on fire or inhaling smoke. You wouldn’t willingly walk into a harmful situation like that without first protecting yourself to the best of your ability. It is the same with dressing, behaving and speaking modestly. You have a better chance of protecting yourself if you do these things.
How we dress, speak and act are constantly sending signals out into the world
You may believe that you are sending out the signal of “I am a strong and capable woman who feels comfortable in her own skin” by walking around scantily clad, but is that the message that is being received by certain people? No. Of course not. To some it suggests your “goods / assets” are free and they can just cop a feel or do worse to you because to them you are showing that you are available to them.
It is like with the animal kingdom. Animals behave in certain ways, they show off their bodies in certain ways and they make certain sounds and all these are mating behaviours. They are showing their availability and desirability to members of the opposite sex. Such is the case when a man or a woman dresses, acts and speaks in certain ways.
Now, that does not mean that bad things will happen to you if you are to behave in such a manner. It just means that if you are in certain areas, or around certain people, it is that much more likely to happen to you.
It also does not mean that bad things will not happen to you if you dress modestly and behave appropriately. But what it does mean is that you will have no such responsibility for any contribution to the situation if it indeed does happen to you.
Dressing modestly does not mean you are a prude or ashamed of your own body. It does not mean that you are living in fear, far from it, it simply means that you respect and love yourself and your body enough to protect yourself from any unwanted and undesirable attention. It does not necessarily mean covering yourself from head to toe, unless that is your religious / cultural / personal preferences. It just means you take care of yourself by covering certain areas of the body that are universally desirable and can attract unwanted attention to men, or women, of the ill-repute. By doing so, you are showing that you respect yourself and demand that same level of respect in return.
It Works Both Ways
We live in a world where rape culture still exists in many parts, if not all, of the world. In certain countries (e.g. Kenya) young boys think it’s okay to rape a woman based on her attire or if they took them out on expensive dates etc. But the situation is improving due to the No Means No Campaign. Through education, for both sexes, the rates of sexual violence are slowly dropping.
So, how can we help in our own communities?
Learning starts in the home
If all children are taught from birth, regardless of their gender, (women are capable of rape and other forms of abuse just as much as men) to treat themselves and others with respect and that abuse of any form is simply unacceptable, the world will be filled with children who grow and develop into happy, healthy and empowered individuals. These individuals firstly, will not be participating in such behaviours and, secondly, will be much more likely to be able to defend themselves and others if/when it is necessary.
We need to be teaching people that they are part of the problem and they too are part of the solution. If you do not recognise your own attitudes and behaviours that can contribute to a given situation, how can you take small steps to be part of the solution and to make things better?
Learning continues in the schools
Of course, we do not live in an ideal world and, as such, there are children who will not have the best possible start in life. Their home environments may be difficult due to family illness, abuse, or other contributing factors, and so it is the responsibility of schools to further educate children on what is and is not appropriate attitudes and behaviours towards everyone of all ages and both genders. Doing all of this, will mean that eventually we will have a world where males and females, of all ages and walks of life, respect each other and protect and look out for each other.
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May we all work together, in the home and in our communities (in various ways) to help achieve a world where all peoples, of all walks of life, do not have to live in fear of others.
What are some of the ways that you can help to make the world a better place?
Whatever happens, don’t forget to smile! Even when it is hard to, try to think of at least one good thing that can help you smile.