Don’t gaslight victims of sexual assault

Take Back the Night, an event by Red Deer College students, sent a powerful message

Take Back the Night, an event organized by social work students from Red Deer College, sent a powerful message that Central Albertans and people around the world will no longer tolerate victim blaming in cases of sexual assault.

Victims of sexual assault are far too often further traumatized by those who feel that sexual assault is partially caused by the victims themselves. It is abhorrent that we as a society allow people to suggest to victims that they could have prevented their attacker from assaulting them by wearing different attire or other dialogue that gaslights victims into thinking their trauma was their fault.

Sexual assault attackers are people who commit assaults to gain power and authority over their victims. What that victim may have said, wore that day or did plays entirely no role in their assault and they should not be made to feel worse by family members, friends, acquaintances, strangers, media or anyone else who wrongly believes that wearing a sweater will stop a sexual predator.

Sexual assault victims are often also victims of gaslighting by their attackers.

This means their attacker psychologically manipulates the victim’s worldview in order for them to question their own sanity. This means that victims often feel guilty for the crimes that are committed against them.

The message we send as a society when we ask victims what they were wearing or what they said to their attackers is that it is partially their fault that someone violated them. This is objectionably wrong, and it needs be eradicated from our societal lexicon.

In short, we as a society need to stop gaslighting victims of sexual assault. The message we need to instead send to victims of sexual assault is that they are empowered, and they are in no way responsible for the deplorable crimes committed against them by their attackers.

Anyone can wear whatever they choose; anyone can say whatever they want and anyone can act how they want within the realm of our society’s laws.

There is absolutely, unequivocally no reason that justifies rape or sexual assault and we need to support victims in any way we possibly can without adding to the considerable trauma they have went through.

Victims need to be believed and victims need to be supported.

This means that when victims do take the absolutely courageous step to report what has happened to them, we need to protect them not only from their attackers, we also need to support them throughout the process of seeking justice.

Don’t ask what the victim wore that day; don’t ask what the victim said and don’t ask what the victim did.

If you do decide to do any of these things, you are in a sense supporting the sexual predators who committed these heinous assaults.

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