*trigger warning for: discussion on rape, victim blaming, and violence against women*
It is an all too familiar story–man is accused of predatory violence against women by the victims that come forward. One at a time, and slowly at first, but then there are two; then four; then twenty and thirty women that find the bravery to come forward… but the words of these survivors are not enough. The man, though the true criminal in this story, finds himself protected by the crowd of well-intentioned cultural commentators. Without meaning to, they have allowed for his actions to remain without consequence and force the weight of this violence on the victims instead.
Immediately, this post serves as commentary to the news of Bill Cosby coming forward with his intentions of drugging and raping women that he mentored, but it also serves as commentary to a problem plaguing our very backyards–the importance of protecting predators and abusers.
Women find themselves disproportinately vulnurable to predatory violence, especially women of color. This ties in with our cultural acceptance of violence. It is normalized in our television, films; in the actions of public figures and celebrities. These things alone do not create the violence that we see, but they do contribute to its importance. And with this violence being so widespread and routine, there would be little done to distrupt it.
What makes this topic such an important one to be discussed is simply because we have done, as a collective culture, a disservice to all the survivors of violence. Even in the linked article above, language serves as a tool to violence. Even the headline contributes to a culture of excusing and protecting predators, by the inciting that the women Cosby preyed upon were voluntarily having sex with him. This plays right into the dangerous narrative of victim blaming; that violence against women is always the woman’s fault and that she must be punished for this crime against her.
Rape, like so many other forms of violence against women, is about power and control. There is no room for consent or choice. And while we can collectively agree that there is nothing that can warrent a woman responsible for crimes committed against her, why is it so hard for us to place this theory into practice? Time and time again, we find ourselves protecting the abusers and perpetrators of violence, rather than the survivors that find themselves facing the consequences, unjust and alone.
Street harrassment, rape, sex trafficking, domestic violence, abuse… these are all contributors to our culture of violence. So what can we do about it? Well, the most important thing we can do is stop defending and protecting the abusers and predators and criminals. Instead, we will be much better off putting that effort and compassion behind the survivors that find themselves standing alone against their attackers. When survivors step forward and tell their stories, it is our job to believe them and to support them. It is our job to allow them time and safety to heal, to not judge them for action or inaction, and to assist them in bringing their perpetrator to justice, if they so choose.
It is also our job to use our voices and platforms responsibly in bringing light to these very real issues that occur. It isn’t just about the women, wives, sisters, or mothers that you know or care about… it’s about having compassion for all women, and believeing that we all deserve the chance at happiness and safety, free from the mark of victimhood. That should be enough for us to begin doing the right thing, disrupting the cycle of violence, and moving forward.