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?