A fantastic article written by Aly Raisman in the February edition of Cosmopolitan. Summed up with “We can dress—and look—however we like.”
It makes me sad when I hear women criticized for wearing clothing that is “too revealing” or, worse, that they are “asking for it.” A woman’s choice of clothing neither determines nor reflects her character or intentions—and it definitely isn’t an invitation for sexual assault. As a society, we need to understand and appreciate why victim shaming is so harmful. Accusatory comments about a person’s appearance or choice of outfit can provoke a sense of shame and trigger a feeling of responsibility that is misplaced. This fans the flames of self-doubt and makes it so much harder to speak up when something’s wrong. I’ve seen firsthand how victim shaming enables and perpetuates sexual abuse.
I’ve been able to speak at many colleges and listen to students share their stories. It’s shocking how common sexual assault is on campuses (23 percent of female undergrad students experience assault, according to a 2015 study published by RAINN). It breaks my heart to hear victims blame themselves because of their outfit choice or how much they had to drink. I wish everyone understood that abuse has nothing to do with clothing. It’s about power and entitlement, and it’s never okay.
Each of us can help neutralize this awful power dynamic by refusing to tolerate victim shaming. Object to it; defend the survivor on social media, at the dinner table, at college parties—wherever, whenever. Let survivors know that they are not alone, that they matter, and that their stories matter too.
We can disempower abusers—but only if we work together.