Problems with Victim Shaming

Victim shaming is a long existent practice. This happens when the victim of any crime or wrongful act is held responsible for the harm that happened to them. The victim may be either partially or completely blamed for the incident. The people who end up blaming the victim are generally insensitive third parties who have no involvement in the act. It is their generalised opinions or views on what might have happened, usually spoken without any regard for the victims and their trauma. Victim shaming is extremely common in the case of rape and other sexual crimes. Even when the #MeToo movement was gaining popularity and urging women to share their experiences, a large part of the society blamed the victims as immoral impostors seeking attention and fame.

During the infamous Nirbhaya case, many people blamed the victim. Jyothi Singh Pandey was beaten, tortured and gang raped in a private bus when she was travelling home after a movie with her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey. Six men, including the driver, raped her and even thrust an iron rod into her intestines to try and erase their tracks. It was a crass and inhumane act that killed the victim. This event left the entire country in shock. However, there were few people, politicians and others in powerful positions, who blamed the victim, chastising her for going out late at night with a guy. Some even commented on the clothes she wore and so on.

The six defendants had lawyers representing them who also blamed the victim. Manohar Lal Sharma, one of the lawyers, said that the assault was the victim’s fault because they were an unmarried couple and they should not have travelled alone at night. He also said, Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady. Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect. He blamed the boyfriend Awindra for not taking care of his woman. Manohar Lal Sharma also appeared in the documentary India’s Daughter and made some controversial statements about women in general which were patriarchal and caused uproar in the society.

According to statistics, rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. We have heard of cases were even minors and children are being raped. In such cases, one cannot blame children for their clothes or the time or the activities they do. It was clearly not their fault. Hence, people must understand that blaming the victim is never the right thing to do. Instead, everyone should join forces against the guilty and ensure justice prevails.

Recently, a very famous university in Chennai faced a major issue. A second year undergraduate student was in the elevator at a women’s hostel alone in the afternoon. The sanitary worker who also took the same lift sexually harassed her by masturbating in the lift in her presence. The girl immediately reported the issue to the authorities. Allegedly, the girl was asked to remain silent about the event. There was also some delay in the administrative side in getting the CCTV footage. Students have alleged that the Director of the University has maintained a stand that such things happen to girls because they are North Indians who dress dirty, smoke and drink. The students took to the streets and social media and the issue became viral. After a protest in the campus and media coverage, the issue was taken up seriously. Eventually, the worker was fired after the incident was proved. This is a classic example of victim shaming. Most of the officials were ready enough to blame the girls while the harsh reality was that they were unable to assure the students’ safety.

Yet another example would be the #MeToo movement. When Tanushree Dutta revealed her experience after 10 years, many pounced on her saying that she might have had a secret agenda. In the South India, Chinmayi, a singer, raised her voice against the atrocities of Vairamuthu, a prominent lyricist. He is also an eminent member of the film industry. Chinmayi even helped others share their stories against Vairamuthu. She was however blamed for slandering a popular man for fame. Also, she was removed from the Dubbing Artists Association for fabricated reasons. Many people started attacking her marriage and personal life. This reception of the victims discouraged other women from sharing their stories.

It’s crystal clear that instead of supporting the victim, the patriarchal society ends up traumatising them. We need to make a conscious effort to stop victim shaming and encourage them and help them gain justice. This is possible only with a major shift in our attitude towards women.

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