Violeta M. Bagia
Cabinet reshuffles won't solve this problem
If you’re like one of the 1.3 million women in Australia who have experienced sexual assault, you’re no doubt feeling the weight of every news article circulating the news in Australia night now. You're also probably feeling the suffocating helplessness that comes with reading stories that are well beyond your scope of control.
You tell yourself that reading the comments section won’t bother you because you’re healed, you tell yourself that surely no one would be so callous to say anything negative about yet another victim being reported on and then you start filtering through the nasty and vile words that forever repeat in your mind: words that describe the victim as a slut, as being partially responsible, as being in the wrong place or wrong time. What you also see is that the range of people who think and speak this way are not only men, not only generations much older than yourself because let’s face it, it was a different time then. You’re shocked to realise that most of these comments are from people your own age, men and women, people who are respected in the community, people you would be friends with. Yet here, behind the safety of their screens and the click clack of their keyboards, they voice their opinions and start to break down your walls. Maybe you were to blame, you think. And so, the cycle begins all over again.
Statistically speaking, the majority of rapes and assaults in Australia are perpetrated by males known to the victim. This horrific insight is also a leading reason behind the lack of reporting. The shame and ridicule victims are faced with when admitting that they were drunk, otherwise inebriated or predisposed, adds to the ‘disbelief’ factor. Throw in the current climate of senators, news reporters and radio hosts who not only question the validity of these victim’s reports, they question by default the validity of the entire systematic problem.
We’re still stuck in a loop where the same, irrelevant questions are raised rather than the ones that matter; why was she out alone, why was she drunk, why was she wearing that skirt? None of these things are to blame for a woman being raped. What is to blame is the fact that a man thinks this sort of behaviour is in any way excusable; the boy’s club mentality, the victim blaming mentality.
The sheer rage that is felt collectively around the country today, as people who should know better, continue make excuses and defend men who have ‘taken advantage’ of a drunk woman is shattering. It is beyond belief that we are still having this argument today, it is beyond comprehension that a woman is still made to feel that she should be solely responsible for her own safety.
It’s a helpless feeling, one that doesn’t seem to go away or ease up no matter how many acts of justice one witnesses. Sometimes it’s just a good day, sometimes it isn’t. And with the amount of media coverage about this, please don’t go through this alone, and if you are, reach out to someone, reach out to me at least.
My parting words to you today are to check in on someone you know has experienced something like this. Don’t assume they’re coping just fine, don’t let them deal with it in silence, don’t let them forget that there are good, genuine people who don’t defend these monsters out there. Most importantly, remind each other that there is good.
We must make a change and the only way this will happen is for us to keep talking, keep sharing and if it makes them uncomfortable, shout it even louder, write about it even bolder. No one, no matter what circumstance resulted in their rape, deserved it and the moment we start acknowledging this crime for what it is, is the moment we will change the world.