She Shouldn't Have Been . . . By Kristin Van De Griend

Believing rape myths and blaming victims allows perpetrators to keep unapologetically violating people. Before I discuss how these things help to perpetuate violence in our own communities, I’ll say one truth – no matter what, it is never the victim’s fault.

It doesn’t matter if people enjoy nature by going for a run alone on a wooded trail. It doesn’t matter if people decide to drink with friends, wear sexy clothes, flirt, stay out late, or walk home alone. It doesn’t matter if people like to make out when they find someone attractive, but they decide not to do something more sexual. It doesn’t even matter if a person has had sex before, and decides not to have sex again with a particular person, or at a certain time and place. If someone doesn’t fight a perpetrator off because of paralyzing shock, fear, or sadness, it has nothing to do with helplessness or “wanting it.”

I’ll be honest, I’ve walked alone at night, been drunk, flirted, looked sexy, and made out with someone whom I thought was attractive on many occasions. I was never raped. I don’t consider myself to be lucky, and I would never for a second believe that I deserved to be raped because I did those things. The only difference between me not being sexually assaulted, and if I had been, is that there was no perpetrator there. There was no perpetrator who made a conscious decision to brutalize my soul.

Rape myths give people false hope. “If I don’t do…then it can’t happen to me.” The truth is – it can. If there is a perpetrator there who chooses to hurt you, it can happen.

When we blame victims, we do three things for perpetrators. First, we are naïve to the fact that it could happen to us, which makes us more vulnerable to them. Second, if it does happen to us, we often blame ourselves because it hard to realize that someone can be so evil. This, in turn, holds perpetrators less accountable. Most importantly, we take the focus and the culpability away from the only responsible person. By blaming victims, we send a very clear message to perpetrators: if you pick a person who’s not like “us” in some way, then you can feel free to do whatever you want to whomever you please. Almost always, perpetrators have multiple victims throughout their lives.

Next time you hear someone start a sentence with, “She shouldn’t have been...” please remind the person who is blaming the victim that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, and the perpetrator is the one and only one person responsible for committing sexual assault.