Blog Archive

Find Me on Facebook

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When can we lose the victim shame game?

Image: graur codrin /
I'm talking about sexual assault.  Domestic violence.  Rape.  Child abuse.  When can we stop the victim shame game that prevents us from discussing them?

Today at work, we were joking around about how many years in jail one might put up with to accomplish certain nefarious tasks.  Another mother and I jokingly pointed out that hey, jail might not be all bad - someone else would do our washing and cooking!  Someone chimed in with "Yes, but they'd do things at night you wouldn't like".  I said "I've just lived through ten years of that", to which his response was to mutter "Didn't really need to know that" and the conversation effectively ended.

Yes, I know that what I said committed a social faux pas.  I know I'm not supposed to talk about it.  I know I'm meant to hide, as much as I possibly can, that during my marriage I was systematically emotionally abused, disrespected and yes, raped.  And in the relationship prior to that.  And as a child.  In fact, for as long as I can remember.  And what I want to know is: why?

If I'd been in a bad car accident some years ago and referred to it flippantly, that would be OK.  If I'd been in a bar brawl and referred to it, that's also OK.  However, discussing that one was the victim of a physically or emotionally violent crime, is verboten.  I'm not blaming my workmate - it's in his social conditioning to react that way.  It's how we are drilled - these things are NOT discussed in the open.  And yet to me, it's as much a part of the make up of who I am, as my weird multi-hued eyes, short stature or love of geeky stuff.

How are we helping victims, by allowing our discomfort with their experiences to make us silence them?  Maybe if others endured their social discomfort by allowing this open discussion, they'd have some tiny sliver of an idea what it is like to live through, rather than just to hear about.  You think it's uncomfortable hearing about how I was treated?  How do you think it felt to be treated like that?  Maybe, they'd be able to be more approachable for the next reticent victim who truly needs to talk about it.  Maybe, if we could stomach more open casual discourse from victims, if we could be seen, people would realise that we are everywhere.  That we are not an ignorent, ugly, minority who brought our suffering on ourselves.  We are your sisters, your daughters, your brothers, your sons.

Until you acknowledge how close these crimes come to your doorstep, you won't be doing all that you can to stop them crossing the threshold.  Look.  Listen.  Discuss.

1 comment:

  1. I would have been furious with your co-worker saying that they "didn't really need to know that"... even if they didn't WANT to know that, they should give you some respect and empathy for the fact that you have, and that you are still out there functioning.

    Maybe they have not been through the abuse that you and so many others have seen... maybe they have and they have their own secrets which makes them more defensive than they should...