‘Women urged to avoid walking alone following series of sexual assaults in west London’. That was the headline released on 2nd December by more than one news source (this one is from London Evening Standard, read the article here). When I read the headline, I instantly felt sick to my stomach. Why? The headline, used by more than one news source, is a clear example of victim blaming.
In fact, throughout all the pieces, the emphasis is on women not to walk alone because then technically, they’re to blame if they become victim of sexual assault. There is no onus on shaming the attacker or condemning his actions as despicable. There is no warning for potential assailants not to attack potential victims. The blame lies solely with the potential victims.
I’m sure many will agree when I say that it is beyond disgusting that in this day and age, women are being told to not walk alone at any point in the day because they may be attacked. We shouldn’t have to walk around constantly frightened and we shouldn’t be locked up at home because we’re women and we may get attacked. The slant of the reports actually suggest that if you’re a woman in west London and, now you’ve read what has happened to these women who were assaulted, you then become victim to a horrific crime, it’s your fault because you were forewarned. So as women, are we supposed to stop living our lives, going to work, socialising with friends and such because there is an attacker on the loose? Are we supposed to stay in the confines of our homes, imprisoned for a crime we’re not perpetuating? How about blaming the assailant for the horrific atrocities he has committed against these women instead, catching him and using him as an example to any future attackers that it is entirely their fault if they violate anyone?
Victim blaming achieves nothing. Actually, that’s a lie. It does achieve something. It achieves oppression. Oppression of the vulnerable, when what they need is protection. The police, who should be protecting those who may come into danger are instead blaming them rather than tracking down those responsible for these sexual crimes. So long as the culture of victim blaming exists, sexual violence will continue to rise because of the reinforced sense of entitlement that society and the media give these attackers and rapists. Society, by perpetuating victim blaming, is excusing and encouraging those committing the crimes. It’s 2014, almost 2015. It makes me wonder what it will take to stop victim blaming, considering that in the 21st century, it is occurring as frequently as ever.