If you’re one of those people who think sexual assault has something to do with what a victim wore, then you need to sit down and let us talk.
We can’t stress this enough: the myth that a woman gets sexually assaulted because her clothes are taken as an ‘invite’ is false, and it enables the empowerment and further perpetuating of rape culture.
In an article penned by Nylon writer Alexis Isabel Moncada, she eloquently details the prevalence of using a woman’s appearance as a factor in determining whether or not she gets sexually assaulted, and why this idea must be gotten rid of.
“While most women have spoken in support of each other, some have taken a different approach to the pervasive problem of sexual harassment and assault,” said Mancada.
She referred to the New York Times op-ed piece written by Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik, who wrote about how she had not experienced” such things” in Hollywood, citing her personal “luxury” of being “average looking,” and consequently receiving less attention from men.
Unfortunately, the idea was also then echoed by Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, who has since apologized for her words, Mancada wrote.
“It would be nice if these instances were aberrations, but Bialik and Douglas are not the only people who perceive sexual assault this way, thinking that harassment is a simple issue of attraction, rather than a power-driven assault. Comments like theirs stem from a mentality that sexual assault is triggered by what women wear, do, or look like, and that if a woman wants to avoid sexual assault, she should avoid wearing revealing clothing, drinking, or being alone with people that she does not know well,” wrote Mancada.
This line of thinking places undue responsibility onto the victim of attack instead of on the perpetrator.
“Victims cannot be held responsible for the actions taken by their predators. Assault can only be avoided through the actions of the perpetrator, not his target,” she said.
If it isn’t simple enough for you, let us break it down: nobody goes around wanting to get assaulted or raped, and no one should go around assaulting people with the excuse that a woman looked like she could have maybe wanted your advances because of what she wore, how much drank, or whether or not she was alone.
She cited the powerful statement read in court by the victim of rapist Brock Turner, who has said she felt guilt at being branded a victim and tried to place the blame on herself.
She said, “Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else.” This serves as a reminder that there is no power to “prevent” sexual assault; there might be a trace of good luck, but that’s all it is. And even if one woman is lucky, that luck might not protect another woman. That luck will not stop a rapist from assaulting another person, nor will it stop the existence of rape culture,” Mancada wrote.
Mancada put it down best when she wrote that rape culture is what allows women, no matter what their age, to be sexually harassed at work, at a bar, at the mall, the beach, or at home. It is the culture that allows women to be sexually assaulted wearing sweatpants, hoodies, bathing suits, or crop tops.
“The only work that should be done is dismantling rape culture itself, which means targeting those who benefit from it,” she wrote.
“Insisting women take precautions to avoid assault will only make them feel responsible when it does happen. They’ll regret every choice that they made that led up to it. They will feel guilty, blame themselves, and will then be far less likely to report or even speak about what happened to them. This just further entrenches rape culture. But by fixing the blame squarely on the perpetrator, we can effect change and build a society where people feel comfortable sharing their stories and feeling secure in themselves—wearing whatever they want to wear, being free.”