“Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us.” -Andrea Dworkin
GDNAL, a good friend and frequent Book Club contributor, read “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and wrote about his reactions to the book. His response focused a lot on the violence, particularly the sexual violence, in the book. The book does detail some pretty graphic and difficult scenes, and he isn’t the only one that struggled with reading some parts of it.
In a subsequent discussion with GDNAL, he reiterated his unease in interacting with people who have been sexually assaulted. It’s a sentiment I understand. I, having been sexually assaulted, having close friends who have been sexually assaulted, having read tons of material on sexual assault, still struggle with how to react. Take, for example, my comment on Britni’s recent post about her sexual assault.
I’m going to go ahead and blame this on the patriarchy, misogyny and general sexism in society.
Society frequently blames the victim, resulting in victims feeling deep and intense shame. Even the Bible advocates that women who don’t cry out during rape should be stoned to death (see Deuteronomy 22:23-24.) When my car was broken into, I posted pictures on Facebook and received tons of support. No one said “maybe you shouldn’t have parked your car in that neighborhood” or “perhaps you shouldn’t have let your car keep its wheels so shiny.” Could you imagine a rape victim posting their injuries to Facebook?
Society also treats victims as though they are permanently broken human beings. In some societies, women who are raped can’t find husbands because they are no longer virgins. Rhianna must now only star in videos with kittens and rainbows. People, hell “experts” even, suggest that rape victims only have sex after their attack because they are punishing themselves by reenacting their crime.
Frankly, it’s no wonder that the friends and families of the victims of sexual assault struggle with finding the appropriate response. You must digest the news of your loved one’s assault in the context of a social discourse which repeatedly blames the victim, de-legitimizes their traumas and stigmatizes them.
Don’t look at me for suggestions on how to fix this. I’m the girl that wished the rape victim pickles.