Rape and social media

Rape and victim-blaming in social media

This week started with #jegtrordeg (Jeg Tror Deg, Norwegian for ‘I Believe You’) trending pretty much everywhere in Norway. People were holding protests all over the country, including right next to my apartment in Oslo, after a young woman’s three rapists were found not guilty in court. I’m sad that three guys who drugged and raped a young girl are still walking around freely, but I’m also happy that people are using this hashtag to ask for justice and support rape victims. No one should go through this alone.

Unfortunately, when checking social media in the evening, I discovered a different type of narrative as well. The hashtag had started spreading messages of hate, victim-blaming, and slut-shaming as well. “Why does everyone always assume the guys are lying?”, “Girls just don’t want to take responsibility for their actions”, “#notallmen”, “They behave like sluts and then they blame the men”, “If I leave my door unlocked I shouldn’t be surprised to get my stuff stolen”, etc.

So many things are wrong with these statements. Yes, it’s correct that not all men are rapists. In fact, only a very small percentage of men will commit rape in their lifetime. But those that actually are rapists should be punished. And this is something most of us can agree on: “Rapists should get punished”. Yet, every time a rape victim steps forward, part of the population feels the need to blame the victim. It’s disgusting.

“Behaving like sluts”

I’ve seen the whole “They’re just ashamed of their slutty behaviour, so they accuse the guy of rape” argument too many times. Besides the fact that I hate the word “sluts”, there’s something else that bothers me about this. Reporting a rape is scary. For many girls (and guys!) it means their story will be questioned all the time, including by the authorities and the people they love. It means victim blaming, slut shaming, nasty comments and facing their rapist in court. There’s a reason so many rapes stay unreported. There’s a reason some people wait years before coming forward. It takes courage. Accusing someone of rape is not some easy way out of a one-night-stand.

I’ve had drunken sex before, and sometimes I regretted it the next morning, and I’ve had friends who did the same. When that happened, it was consensual sex. Both of us had been flirting with each other after the first few drinks. Both of us had felt attracted to the other person. When we made out, we both wanted it. When we had sex, we both wanted it. It wasn’t rape. It never even crossed my mind to call it rape. But sometimes people get raped while drunk. And when that happens it’s no longer drunken sex, but rape. Then the victim isn’t regretting the sex, but the victim has been raped. Then the victim isn’t scared to be called a slut but scared not to be taken seriously. Rape should be taken seriously.

Comparing rape to an unlocked door

This is the most annoying comparison I’ve ever seen or heard. “If I leave my door unlocked I shouldn’t be surprised to get my stuff stolen.” Yes, you should, and you probably would still be angry if it happened. People aren’t supposed to enter someone else’s building without permission. We aren’t meant to have sex with someone without consent. I don’t go around checking my neighbourhood for unlocked doors so I can steal their cats; that’s what thieves do. I don’t go to clubs to force drunk people to have sex with me; that’s what rapists do.

And besides the “entering property without permission”, an unlocked door and rape have nothing else in common. You can’t compare someone’s body, sexuality or health with a door, or stolen iPads. You won’t risk getting an STD from a regular break-in. You won’t suffer from PTSD. You won’t go through months or years of nightmares and flashbacks. No one around you will judge you. No one will tell you it’s your fault or that you’re a slut. No one will call you a liar. Stop comparing our bodies to doors. It’s a shitty comparison. It belittles rape and blames the victim.

And when we blame victims for being raped, we’re taking the responsibility away from the rapist. When we blame victims for what happened to them, we’re telling rapists they didn’t do anything wrong. When we blame the victims instead of the rapists, rape will keep happening.

What do you think about the situation?

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  1. I think more needs to be done to educate young men about what crosses the line of consent and the life-long consequences to them if they take advantage of someone eg if they are drunk. I doubt many young men realise that for a fun minutes of “fun” to them they could end up with a criminal record and a registered sex offender.

  2. The reason why rape victims don’t report cases is because they will be blamed. I remember a friend that reported a rape case, they blamed her for wearing shorts and going to club.

  3. It’s so frustrating we have to have these conversations over and over again. I don’t know about Norway, but here in the USA, we have awful sex education and are still arguing over what is considered consent. It’s exhausting to hear about rape after rape happen just to hear the same shit and have nothing change. This is a great post, girl. Keep sharing this information and help be a change in the world. XOXO

    Breanna Catharina

    1. So true. Sex ed in the UK is varied (understatement). Private schools are often some of the worst for not wanting to piss off parents, when frustratingly they have to money to get in expert educators and provide condoms..!

      Becca X

  4. This is a great post & so important. Victim blaming is horrible. The commenter above is right, we should educate everyone on how not to rape – we can’t assume that our kids will know better without teaching them such an important issue. This is really well written and so true, thank you!

    1. You’re right; we need more education on this subject. It would probably be good to hear stories from both sides in sex-ed as well. What are the most common things guys do that freak girls out and vice-versa? How would you want a (potential) partner to react to rejection? How would you feel if someone you’re not interested in keeps bugging you for sex? Etc.

  5. I absolutely HATE victim blaming. And it shocks me (but not so much) that some people continue to do it. It is so frustrating that we’re still having this conversation and I pray that someday we’ll have better answers. Thank you for the poignant words. Love what you said here.

    Sarah | DelighttheDetails.com

  6. I LOVE this post, and this is such an important topic that needs to be addressed more! I feel like rape is such a taboo subject and not talked about enough so I love this. It sadly just sums up the media and the medias perception of everything. Great post X

  7. I like how you break down the comparison to theft. So many times I have wanted to articulate that no, my belongings are not as valuable as my body, dignity and confidence.
    So great to hear that protests against victim blaming are happening elsewhere in Europe too. Will keep an eye on your blog – lovely to meet you X

    1. Yes, I’ve always hated that comparison! I’ve had things stolen, and I’ve had people do terrible things to my body (will write another blog post on that in the future) and you simply can not compare the two.

  8. I completely agree with Jon above, there needs to me a universal education on this subject. It’s so sad that after having so much robbed from them in a traumatic experience they face ridicule as well!
    Great piece, so important to write about.

  9. This is so disturbing that the perpetrators do not automatically carry blame.I feel sorry for all those who have to live with the pain and sadness of such as heinous act, on top of knowing the perpetrators are free. Sends a bad message to others in society.

  10. I understand this…after a bad experience as a teenager I was taught the culture of victim blaming and made to think it was my fault and it took me years to overcome this and realise how wrong the adults who were supposed to help were.

  11. I agree that it’s terrible that people look to blame the victim. Unfortunately there have been a couple of high profile cases (like at Duke University) where false allegations are made and it just makes it harder for people to listen to victims. But in fact there are no more false accusations about rape than there are for any other kind of crime. It’s very sad that in this day and age someone would say a woman was asking for it…

  12. This is such a well written post on a very relevant topic! We definitely need more forward thinkers to move the conversation forward and more aimed towards helping victims.

  13. This is sensitive, but both paries are always guilty but we tend to forget this. Dressing or looks from the females instigate his bad and evil acts and yes the male get off balance with no proper sex ed that they take advantage of every sexual looks and all. I hate rape and condem it but both parties should work towards it.

    1. I disagree about the fact that both parties are guilty. It’s not because you’re turned on by someone’s looks or clothing style that you have to rape them. There’s a thing called self control.

      I’ve been around many people I considered attractive and have even seen them naked (group shower) but it has never even crossed my mind to touch them spontaneously. And even if I would be thinking “damn, starting to make out with her right now would be so hot”, I would never do it like that. Imagine you’re in a group shower at the gym with a bunch of guys and one of them randomly starts to touch your genitals and rapes you “because you were naked”.

      Rape is always the rapist’s fault. Not the victim’s, not both parties. The only person to blame is the rapist.

  14. Sex education from young age is truly important… Rape cases happen probably becoz one can’t control itself… It’s terrible to put the blame on the victim after what happened but ppl still do that.. Sigh!~

    1. I like the video too; It’s such a simple and way to describe consent. Taking sex out of the picture just makes it easier to understand for some people. I think it should definitely be shown in sex-ed classes or rape prevention campaigns.

  15. I love this video! It’s incredible that these kind of mindsets to me, especially when these men clearly have women in their lives…friends and family. I had a man once tell me that he deserved some credit for being okay with me not having sex with him. He then freaked out when I equated it to…”how would you react to a guy saying that to your little sister?”

  16. It’s sad that we live in such a modern age and yet these things happen. I blame everyone. Society, parents, educational system, police. We learn our kids to be free to follow their dreams, but world is such a scary place.

  17. Something that has bothered me lately is how often I see scenes in movies where two people are mildly interested in one anything and the women says “No” or “Slow Down” or “Stop it” and the guy keeps pushing it and they end up making out or having sex and it’s somehow portrayed as romantic. SO Gross. That is not consent and society constantly been show this makes us thinks it’s okay when it’s really not.

    1. That’s gross indeed, totally setting a wrong example. But there are so many things that bother me about sex and relationships in movies and tv shows.

      For example when the guy is interested in the girl but it’s not mutual, and he goes through all those crazy and creepy stalker-ish scenarios to show her his love and then at the end she gives in. Like come on, I’d be totally freaked out if a guy I turned down would steal a blue french horn for me and come to my apartment late at night to deliver it.

  18. Wow. This is such a well-written article. Why would anybody even compare an unlocked door to rape? They are nothing alike. Honestly, rapists do need to be punished and it’s sad that when this happens people always think of calling the girl “a slut” and that it’s all “her fault”. If a man had this happen to their daughter, wife, sister, mother, etc. they would definitely think about it differently.

    1. Thank you. And you’re right; people react differently when it happens to someone close to them. I’ve heard people yelling that if someone tried to rape their daughter, they’d kill the rapist. However, they don’t mind saying “the girl probably lied” or “it’s her own damn fault” when a rape case gets in the news. I just don’t understand it.

  19. Consent is everything – and that tea clip is excellent! Love this post Sarah. Well done for working to bring this into mainstream awareness. People like you make a difference.x