I will sometimes read stuff that is posted in one or two specific on line communities (not chat rooms, locked down places where only a few folks can be members). I’m not a chatty on line person but you know, it’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on current issues and events, especially since we are from all over the place.
Recently there was an article posted asking “Did the judge make a mistake?” The article was about a 14 year old girl who was sexually assaulted by an 18 year old boy. He admitted and acknowledged that she asked him to stop and he ignored her. To the judge, that didn’t matter. This particular judge (a female) commented that the victim was 14, had a baby already and had other sexual experiences before meeting up with this 18 year old.
This to me, is such a typical example of victim blaming. We’ve all heard the stories in the news where a judge accused a four year old of “flirting” with her adult abuser (who sexually assaulted her) and everyone can look and see how ridiculous this is. She’s four, she’s innocent!! It’s not her fault. It’s sad that a judge would even think that but to some people, sexual assault is about sex and “guys not being able to help themselves therefore it’s the girl’s fault for tempting him by you know, breathing”.
But what happens when she’s 14 and she has been sexually active already? Does that make her less innocent? Make her less vulnerable? Less of a victim somehow?
Victim blaming happens after numerous situations and events. We get it. The first thing people do is look to explain what has happened. Oftentimes, what’s happened seems really incomprehensible at first – that makes it difficult to understand – difficult to explain – difficult to accept. Because if you accept that bad things happen to good people, the world doesn’t feel quite so safe any more and that is a really anxiety provoking feeling.
We all need to make sense of things, typically in order for our brains to ‘let it go’ and not worry and fret about it. That doesn’t mean we need to make sense of it by “throwing the victim under the bus” as they say. That really is the easy way out. There are other ways that can make sense of it that are perfectly reasonable but they usually involve understanding that the assailant is responsible for his or her actions and the victim is not.
So the victim in this case is 14, has a baby and has been sexually active in the past. To other people they see that as “she’s obviously not innocent, she’s immoral, she’s a slut, she’s a bad kid”. To us, we see someone who has been taken advantage of by an older boy (14 to 18 is a BIG difference in development); we see someone who may have already been vulnerable due to her circumstances; we see someone who does not deserve to be sexually assaulted because she’s not “innocent”; we see someone who is worthy of the same respect and consideration that a four year old victim or a 40 year old nun should receive.
As long as we continue to pass along misconceptions about sexual abuse and the “role” of victims, we will continue to re-traumatize those that come forward trying to get help. There is no debate, this judge erred and should not have the opportunity to pass judgement on any more sexual assault cases. The bare minimum when working with other people is “do no harm”. This judge caused (possibly irreparable) harm. She obviously still believes that some victims deserve it (for being sluts or not pure or not a virgin or a bad kid or whatever – pick one); that assailants can’t help themselves and that some victims are not victims at all. We need a better system so that judges like this don’t continue to hurt our kids when they are trying to get help.