I’ve spoken about this before, but I feel a responsibility to again, so here goes.
There is a fundamental flaw in the way we talk about sexual assault, harassment, and rape. The below, from RAINN’s main statistics page, is a perfect example:
The statistics are accurate and staggering, but are framed in a way to highlight the victims – we, the women, are the experiencers of the trauma. Nowhere on the statistics page of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network does it mention the vast numbers of people COMMITTING these crimes. No, it is probably not a 1:1: correlation, but when we sit in shock and sadness as we hear the frequency rates, or when we see the sheer volume of Me Too statuses, there seems to be a disconnect between the number of victims and what that says about the number of perpetrators.
The fact that we talk about this topic with the passive voice adds to the stigma that it is somehow our responsibility and duty to stop and/or prevent it. It’s not. The term “violence against women” suggests that somehow this is happening to us without someone committing it against us. This erasing of the perpetrator is how men like Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump can walk around believing they’re untouchable – the rapists and harassers aren’t even mentioned when we talk about rape and harassment!
Me Too is a powerful reminder of how many of us there are out there, but it once again puts the onus on us. For every Me Too, there’s a You Too out there who did this to that woman. But yet, I have to use my trauma and my past experiences, which are no one’s business, to somehow prove to men how prevalent this is. They should already know – they’re the ones that did this in the first place, or have stood silent as they watched it happen. Why do they get to remain silently in the shadows while I have to out myself as a victim? It sucks.
So spare me the wife, daughter, sister bullshit. My body, my career, my sexuality do not belong to any man, regardless of relation. Stop thinking about women in relationship to men. Stop thinking about women as a statistic. Start looking yourself in the mirror and realizing Me Too might mean YOU too.
(Caveat: for the sake of this piece, I focused solely on acts committed by men against women, but I do not ignore the fact that men have also been victimized and women have also been perpetrators).