How often have you heard women being told not to stay out late? How often have you heard someone say that if a woman falls prey to sexual abuse, she must have been asking for it?
Victims of rape and sexual abuse are often humiliated and led to believe that they deserved it. If you think this happens only in India, then think again. The Brook Turner case is testament to the fact that victim-shaming is an unfortunate reality for a large number of victims from around the world.
Teenage, one of Singapore's leading magazines for youngsters, found itself at the receiving end of severe criticism after one of their writers responded to a rape victim's plea for help. In a letter titled, 'Raped after lying to my mum', the victim described how her boyfriend had allegedly raped her when she was intoxicated after having consumed wine.
The letter read as follows:
In response, writer Kelly Chopard told the complainant that she should have been "grateful" that her alleged rapist "was wearing a condom." Read that again. Chopard went on to say that the victim had "acted like a girl who had been around."Read her response here:
By saying that the girl gave an "indication" of being a "willing player" in her boyfriend's plan because she did not ask for lights to be turned on and accepted wine, Kelly endorsed the fact that perpetrators can easily blame their victims to justify their actions.
Social media users slammed Kelly for her "insensitive" comment. One of them said, "Going to a house of the opposite sex DOES NOT mean that sex is on the table. Accepting wine DOES NOT mean sex is on the table. This poor girl got caught up in what she believed was a romance. Calling her naive and warning her to stay close to home from now on is outrageously shaming. Not once did the write place blame on the perpetrator. THAT is victim blaming and shaming."
Teenage Magazine has apologised for Chopard's response. The magazine also extended a apology on their official Facebook page. Their apology reads as follows:
"She is a qualified professional who has many years of experience counselling youths. we would like to deeply apologise. Kelly's reply was largely focused on helping vulnerable girls understand the need to not place themselves in risky situations despite knowing the possible consequences. In no way does this mean that they deserve to be blamed. It simply means that they have to know how to protect themselves in a society where the definition of consent is still unclear to many."
In her apology, Kelly said: "Please believe me when I say I am profoundly sorry for teenagers who are vulnerable and often "naïve" as I stressed, more than once, in my response in this case."
Read her complete apology here.
The incident brings to mind Amitabh Bachchan's 'The Rule Book of the Girls' Safety Manual' - a part of his speech from the courtroom scenes in Pink - which made waves upon its release in India earlier this year.
It is strange that no one bats an eyelid when it comes to inebriated men. However, when a woman in India drinks - or expresses a penchant for alcohol - many are quick to brand her as deserving of whatever sexual abuse she is subjected to. Drinking in India comes with health warnings for men and a lesson in morality for women. Pink may have poked fun at this mentality, but for the large majority, this is but a way of life.
A woman travelling alone raises eyebrows and is often subject to remarks ranging from safety warnings to remarks of the 'what-will-people-say' variety. Society is quick to judge on the basis of the people you hang out with. Whether they really know anything about you or not doesn't really matter to them. Either way, Kelly Chopard is yet another incident that goes to prove that the world is still a long way from comprehending the sheer trauma that a rape victim undergoes. As a species, we aren't even close to understanding the concept of consent. And for that, we deserve to hang our heads in shame.
--Edited by Blassy Boben