Your Advice is Useless (Blast From the Past)

Hey all,

Femi’s been down in the super dumps for the past some odd, which means no escort shifts and a whole lot of depression and all the dark shit that follows (whee chronic everything!).  So she’s not been in a real ranty mood.

While I recover, I wanted to post a thing I did as a FB note some years ago.  Hope it will tide you all off.

Oh boy, I’m not going to make friends with this note. At all.

When someone tells you that they’ve been raped or sexually assaulted or harassed, there are things that are kind to say:

“I’m sorry.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“What an asshole.”

Those are empathic phrases, nice things to say.

You know what’s a really unkind to the point of stupid thing to say in this situation? Anything that sounds like a “shoulda/woulda/coulda”.

“I was there/if that was me, I woulda…”

“Why didn’t you…”

“If everyone carried guns/learned martial arts/screamed at assholes, this would never happen.”

…and let’s just throw every single “rape prevention” tip that has ever existed on that list.

Why is it ‘unkind’? Two reasons: it is a very polite way of blaming the victim and it forgets the concept of the freeze.

When you try to give someone who’s already been assaulted or harassed or raped advice on how to avoid their violation, you’re pretty much telling them “since you did not do this brilliant thing I’m suggesting, what were you expecting to happen?” It puts the onus on the victims to alter their behavior to avoid their attack. It assumes all rapists are strange men who hop out of the bushes and do their business. It ignores spousal rape, acquaintance rape, rape of men, rape of trans* folk, the rape of children and the elderly,  harassment by crazy fuckers on the subway who don’t take “no” or disinterest for an answer.  It pretty much says, “If you don’t ever leave the house and refuse to live your life, maybe you’ll never get raped.” It ignores the possiblity of escalation if the attacker really loses it if you fight or yell back.  It assumes that all attackers are just weak wlled cowards who will just back off if you say boo, and if you don’t say boo, you deserve what you get.

I’m sorry, do meek, quiet, shy, introverted, nonconfrontational people deserve to be raped, harassed, assaulted? Because that’s what such advice says. You might not mean it, but intent isn’t fucking magic.

Now let’s get to the freeze, and this one is a little rough and personal for me, so I’m not even going to try to be polite about it. Unless you’ve had extensive martial training until your instinct is to fight when threatened, then you have no fucking idea what you’re going to do when threatened. You don’t and it’s bullshit to even pretend.  Hell, you’re not even 100% sure what you’ll do even if you have the training or carry a gun or whatever. We may like to think we’re badasses and know just what we’ll do if some creep on the bus rubs his junk against your ass or if someone spikes your drink and you’re out of it and they’re taking advantage.

Until it actually happens. You might do just what you think you’ll do, say that witty thing, yell back, run off, fight back.

Or you might freeze. It’s a big possibly that you will freeze. When a scene that seemed safe turns bad, your mind might be stuck in “WTF is this actually happening” and your body might not move. While I was being assaulted sexually, I froze. I didn’t believe what the fuck was going on, my “no” and “stop” were ignored, his hands were still on me, he wasn’t going to stop, so I froze. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move until my ex-fiance (who thankfully followed my assailant out of worry that this shit might happened) started to yell from a distance.

Did I deserve to be assaulted because I didn’t start screaming my head off or whip out some crazy flailing moves to get myself out of the situation? I’ve been struggling with unneeded guilt about every single aspect of what happened to me that night, and it’s been hell getting to “that wasn’t my fault.”

Rapists and harassers aren’t going away. I know this. Even if there’s a beautiful change in society there will always be assholes of all stripes who don’t respect other people. But you know what doesn’t fucking help? Burdening victims with unhelpful advice. They need support, not a guilt trip of what they “didn’t do”. Trust me, they do enough of that on their own. They don’t need to know what you would have done, particularly if you’ve never been in that situation.

Yeah, there’s my tl;dr, support, not guilt.

Your Advice is Useless (Blast From the Past)

2 thoughts on “Your Advice is Useless (Blast From the Past)

  1. 1

    “If you don’t ever leave the house and refuse to live your life, maybe you’ll never get raped.”

    Yeah, and that’s super great advice, considering 4 in 10 rapes take place at the victim’s home.

    My sense is that a lot of the victim-blaming is really coming from a place of terror and self-preservation, i.e. “this terrifying thing couldn’t ever happen to me because I would do X.” And while it’s understandable, it’s still fucking harmful to survivors and needs to stop. It’s also, as you point out, pretty unlikely to be true.

    1. 1.1

      It’s the Just World fallacy of the worst sort. “Obviously I’M doing all the right things, so if bad things happen to you, you much have fucked up somewhere”

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