What were you wearing?
The victim is bombarded with a series of questions when they first come forward – unsurprisingly, these questions, while asked unconsciously, almost as a reflex, all work towards enforcing certain myths that circle around a subject as sensitive as rape. While these questions may sound different, all have the same, central idea at their heart.
What were you wearing? Why were you there at that time? Were you drunk? Why did you go there? Why don’t you cover yourself up? Did you do something to incite the rapist? Did you scream out? Ask for help? Run?
On further examination, you will notice the striking similarities between all of these inquiries. They unconsciously make the victim believe that it was somehow their fault – that there was a problem with something they wore, something they did, somewhere they shouldn’t have been. Society as a whole propagates these ideas in order to comfort themselves that no similar strategy will ever befall them. They will never dress in such a provocative manner, they will never let themselves or their loved ones go to that particular area after dark and they would certainly never behave in a manner that could possibly invite sexual assault.
This is nothing but denial – a coping mechanism that allows people to adjust to stressful situations. But what about the mental health of the victim? How can they ever heal from this if they are constantly badgered with questions that have no relation to rape?
The horrendous statistics collected by Amnesty International in a survey reported that 26% people believe that people are inviting assault if they wear provocative clothes. More than one-third of men believe that women want to be raped if they talk to women and/or wear clothes that properly do not cover her body.
Even in Pakistan, a major part of the population believes that if women started wearing the traditional burqa then the rape statistics involving women would significantly decrease. This victim shaming has no roots in one particular culture or nation, it is prevalent in all countries around the globe, often translating into severe consequences for the victim, not the rapist.
Let’s debunk the myth that the type of clothing worn has any effect on rape.
Myth: The victim was raped as they provoked the rapist with their provocative clothes and behavior.
Truth: A research conducted by Utah University debunked this widespread myth with two, simple points of focus.
One, the ages of rape victims can range from babies who are just days old to ninety-year-olds.
The fact that rape victims do not belong to a specific age group also proves that provocative clothing has no relation to rape since babies and old people are hardly capable of wearing provocative clothes or behaving in that manner.
Two, the majority of convicted rapists often cannot recall the clothing worn by their victim.
Fact: The idea that rape victims are mainly beautiful women wearing provocative clothing normalizes the crime as it plainly translates to the concept that the woman was asking for it with her choice of clothing. Many studies have indicated that many convicted criminals said that they were not motivated by a desire to have sex but rather to control and dominate another person, fueled primarily by aggression.
Prevention Pathways conducted a research and reported that many rape victims were not wearing provocative clothes when they were assaulted, instead, their attire seemed to consist mainly of casual jeans and pajamas.
Rape convicts admitted that they did not choose to rape a particular victim because of their clothing but because of vulnerability since it is easy to dominate a vulnerable person and carry out acts of violence that are common in these cases.
All these facts and studies prove that this stereotype perpetuated by society that assault is somehow the fault of the victim is not only false but devoid of the logic behind this crime. This myth is not only dangerous for the mental health of the victim but propagates rape culture and hinders the healing process for all parties involved. So the next time someone tries to blame a rape victim for wearing the wrong clothes or being in the wrong place, know this.
The victim is never at fault.