Sexual Harassment Perpetuates Victim-Blaming, And It’s Not Ok

Did you get catcalled on the street today? Maybe it was only with a “Hello, beautiful!” But it still triggered a rush of nerves and fear, as his stare followed your quickening shift towards the subway stop. Maybe you thought he was going to follow you, touch you – or worse. But fortunately, you escape – only to proceed on with your day and deal with your perverted boss at work.

Perhaps he inappropriately compliments you on your top or shames you on the length of your skirt. Either way, he’s not really doing anything and you really need this job, so there’s nothing to worry about – right? Whatever.

You decide to release your tension at the gym, only to be physically “positioned” by your hands-y personal trainer or a guy who knows how to lift. They’re just showing you the proper form, no? You shrug it off as nothing.

Finally, you want to let loose after a hard day’s work; so you visit the local bar to grab a well-deserved drink. Only your stress level counter-intuitively shoots up, as you find yourself wanting to pour that Sangria all over an aggressive douchebag who insists he calls your digits to make sure he got the right number and “accidentally” brushes his hand on your – assets.

Is this the new normal? Is sexual harassment now supposed to be expected on a daily basis, by women and men everywhere? Are we victims of a culture that promotes anything that’s not rape, but that can lead to it?

Maybe it’s what you were wearing, they say. Maybe you looked like you “were asking for it”. Even if it was only a word here or grab there, it wasn’t consensual, you didn’t ask for it – and frankly, these statements sound like textbook responses many victims have heard when they were indirectly “blamed” for their sexual assault.

Maybe a guy flashed you his goods as his intended “form of flattery” or grinded and caressed you at the club without you knowing. He came up from behind, out of nowhere – almost as a trick, an unwelcome surprise, a manipulation tactic.

Maybe you wouldn’t contact authorities to report this behaviour with it being so commonplace, but it happens to you and your friends so often that you don’t know what’s “wrong” anymore. What’s even more disheartening is the reality that society feeds on this sort of attention, and women begin to visualize this sexual harassment as rewarding or even alluring. This is when the lines get skewed as to what’s considered “harassment”.

Listen to the lyrics for “Blurred Lines.” Robin Thicke and others are basically hushing that they “know you want it”, even though those “blurred lines” suggest otherwise. The unwritten boundaries or their challenging of these limits – the delivery of these unwanted advances and what they see as a “yes” when it’s really a “no”. These women (or men) are brainwashed into believing they desire this treatment, when it wasn’t even invited in the first place.

So this behaviour becomes glamourized and normalized, blurring the lines even more as to what’s deemed sexual harassment and pushing the envelope as to what they can get away with. What “no” really means in their minds translates as “yes”, even when it doesn’t.

This issue becomes even more rampant and embellished. The difference between polar opposites, paradoxes of “right” and “wrong” – or “yes” and “no” – transition simultaneously. But what this really means is that it fuels that same mindset of rape culture; that certain things like “taking advantage of a drunk girl” can be condoned.

All hyperbole aside, training women and men alike that they desire this behaviour can be much like repeating the behaviour of rape and sexual assault to adults or even minors – making them think they “deserve” or “expect” it after multiple occurrences of abuse. This only reinforces the cycle, not just by blaming and shaming the victim – but by allowing this behaviour as if it were okay and making it all the more “trendy”.

Then there are incidents when boyfriends pressure their girlfriends to have sex or push them to engage in acts they oppose during intercourse. Friends and strangers alike further inhibit the victim’s clear instincts that something isn’t right, that their boyfriend shouldn’t be controlling them with sex or using it as blackmail to end the relationship.

When positions of power like employers hire and regulate workers with the intention to sexualize them or utilize them for sex, they’re abusing their role and overstepping policy or legal grounds. When employees need their jobs to survive and put roofs over their heads, they’re hesitant to confront their employers or take it to the cops in fear of losing their income.

On the street during the day, people can see you in broad daylight and surround you so you’re protected by any potentially touchy cat-callers. At the bar, sobriety is severely lacking, and this harassment is almost expected. The fault is allegedly misconstrued, since the unconscious may not take responsibility for their actions.

But when you’re at a club and stuck between crowds of people or two guys blocking you, how do you get out? Is this where your self-defense martial arts comes to play?

Whether you’re in a dark alley or wearing a crop top, whether it’s a comment, grope or more – it’s never your fault. Victim blaming and shaming only harnesses more fear with sexual harassment or assault victims, pushing them away even more from coming forward – knowing they’ll be minimized or charged and reliving their trauma. You can be cautious and protect yourself with self-defense moves, staying in public places or with a group of friends. But you shouldn’t avoid bars, gyms or workplaces just to further yourself from someone’s potential opportunity. You can be knowledgeable and establish a safety net.

But, always remember: you don’t cause rape. Rapists cause rape. Let’s teach people not to rape or perform unwanted advances of any kind. Let’s teach them not to grope, catcall, coerce, stalk or stare. If someone needs a reminder, scream NO! – even if it’s just an overtly pushy dude begging you for your number. And remember – it’s his fault, not your’s. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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