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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 16, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsLady's Liberty

Women blamed for systemic issues

There is no question that sexual assault is a problem. What is arguably a bigger problem, however, is how societies perceive this issue throughout the world.

According to a CNN iReport in August, a female student at the University of Chicago is on a medical leave of absence from the school because of suffering from PTSD after experiencing sexual assault while studying abroad in India. This tragic story is evidence that this issue cannot be taken lightly.

Women in most patriarchal societies are held partially responsible for sexual assault, be it for the clothing they wear or their behavior. It can be hard to face the truth, because people try to justify the crimes by assigning blame. But blaming the occurrence of the rape on circumstantial factors takes the blame away from perpetrators. Issues such as slut-shaming and victim-blaming have to be stomped out of societies all over the world, and this has to be done soon.

An example that is much closer to home is the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. In August of 2012, a 16-year-old girl was publicly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her peers at a party. The offenders molested the girl and posted pictures and videos of her on social media.

The trial sparked controversy because of victimizing statements of the defense attorney, who suggested that her lack of protest indicated consent. CNN also faced criticism for its sympathetic reporting, calling the rapists “two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students.” This proves that even in the U.S., patriarchy is a strong influence, because excuses are made for male perpetrators.

We can’t sit back and assume that these crimes won’t happen here. There is no identifiable marker for a rapist or victim. We can’t sit idly by because of a sense of false security. Rapes do not only happen in “some” parts of town or to “some” people, and none of us is exempt or immune to attack.

The issue of associating rape with shame and a loss of honor is global. We have to get rid of this stigma against victims of rape — we have to stop slut-shaming and blaming anyone or anything besides the perpetrator, no matter the situation. We have to change how society views everything about rape: its victims, its perpetrators, its cause and its prevalence. Making a change toward stomping out stigmas against rape empower and aid victims all over the world, and also cut down on the number of crimes that occur. Let’s begin today.

Ramya Vijayagopal can be reached at rvijaya1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @itsramyav