The Perfect Victim  

In the #metoo world, it seems like the narrative of the perfect victim is finally being laid to rest. But alas, it seems like old habits die hard. And it also seems like it is women who play a large role in perpetuating the stereotype that some women are just dead set on playing a role in their own abuse.

I recently read an article about domestic violence and one of the female commentators said, “No lady would get abused like that”. Now, let’s break down this statement. This has been a long-standing and surviving idea of “lady hood” that acts as a shield from abuse. A lady is modest. A lady knows her place. A lady makes sure she is respected and gives respect. A lady is not a victim and if she is, then she is a victim of one of those crimes you really cannot blame on her- a back ally rape by a stranger for instance. By that definition, a) all other women deserve to be victims, since they chose not to be ladies and b) men and boys definitely cannot be victims, because they are excluded from the lady hood.

This kind of internalized misogyny hurts men as well as women. A recent study in India showed that almost as many boys are victims of sexual assault as girls, if not more. Boys do not come forward with their stories because the society programs them to think they have done something wrong- and the abusers know that. Gendered language of manning up, “boys don’t cry” nonsense is what is hurting our sons and friends. The patriarchal framework dismisses the injury to boys because they cannot get pregnant or lose their marital value by losing virginity, which would bring shame onto the family. Boys are left without access to psychological help and healthcare facilities, being told that their pain is invalid and to man up.  While the “family shame” of a female victim narrative is slowly being dismantled, the violence against boys is still kept safely under the carpet. We said it a million times and we will say it again, the rigid gender roles are hurting men as much they are hurting women, but there is no conversation around it.

The same nonsensical thinking behind the statement from the beginning of the story of some women being more deserving of abuse is the thinking that drapes so many victims in the blanket of shame and silence. Only once we let go of the pleasant lie that our actions or our gender alone is enough to protect us from violence can we finally start tackling the real issues: power relations and power abuse, culture of silence and the need for a comprehensive sex ed.  Thankfully, more and more women are taking a stand and calling BS when it comes to abuse, but we must not let down our boys going through the same. We need to empower them as much as we empower women; otherwise we are looking at just the half of a puzzle. A puzzle of pain and humiliation no one deserves to go through alone.

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