by Nicole Yainne

Nobody that has been raped ‘asked for it’. No one selected their outfit for a night out wondering which black, strapless dress would give a stranger the idea that they could sexually harass them. In a country like Sri Lanka, where our culture plays an overwhelming role in the way children are raised, instead of condemning the victim for their choice of clothing, as an example to the daughters of this generation, in terms of what not to do and wear. One should make the sons, the soon to be men, aware that it is not the woman’s  fault because it is never the victim’s fault. A short skirt is not an invitation to non consensual sex similarly to the fact that a visible bra strap is not a subtle hint that one wants to be raped. Non consensual sex, rape, sexual abuse, in what world would one ask for any of that?

As a society we have silenced the victim, swept the dilemma under the rattan carpet and steered clear of conversations concerning the twisted mentality of our law and enforcement authority, when it comes to the way rape cases are investigated. As much as I would like to say that only men possess this warped disposition, this is not the case. Educated women, wearing ankle length dresses with conventionally long sleeves seem to think that they would never be victims of rape because according to them, one can dress to avoid being undressed by a mentally disturbed person who does not understand that rape is wrong. Am I saying that there’s anything wrong with preferring to wear skirts that fall below your knees? No but what I am saying, is that one should not consider wearing a blouse that exposes an inch of midriff as ‘asking for it’. I sincerely hope that none of you out there who have judged a victim of rape by their choice in clothing will ever be proved wrong by the crime itself. However I do optimistically wait on a society that will understand that you can never point the finger at the victim of sexual harassment, just as the owner of something that has been stolen cannot be reprimanded for their ownership.

If I were to walk through the doors of a police station in Sri Lanka and say that something had been stolen from my house, the key inquiries would be based around the intruder, whether I had seen or could describe the individual and where, what time and what had been stolen. However, if a brave woman found the courage to speak up and seek justice after being raped, the inquirer is often curious as to what she was wearing, where she was, how late it was and whether she was alone. I, as the victim of theft, would never be questioned on why I owned what had been stolen, or why I had kept it in a certain area in my house because the bottom line is that I had been wronged, I had something that rightly belonged to me stolen. I was the victim, the thief was the criminal and justice would be served.

Rape is the carrying out of unlawful sexual activity without the consent of the victim. How much skin the victim was or was not showing, should not affect the opinion or furthermore the response of society and it should definitely not make the victim the one at fault in any way. So why are we making the actions and choices of the victim, the crime when it comes to rape? Why are we giving the unconscionable criminal an excuse?

Do you honestly believe that if mini skirts were to be eradicated and that every woman’s dress sense suddenly resembled Julie Andrews’ from ‘The Sound of Music’, that no one would ever be raped again? That if women were required to be indoors after 8pm, it would put an end to the rape cases? No and definitely not, because rape is not the victim’s fault. The only way to hear less of these mortifying cases would be if we treated sexual harassment with the sound understanding that the one raped is undoubtedly the victim and the rapist is the unjustified wrongdoer, who deserves to be sentenced for their crime.

When you hesitate to see rape for what it really is, and ponder on the actions of the victim instead, you are fueling the dehumanizing idea that one can present themselves in a way, that makes it acceptable for someone to rape them. How many cases do we have to hear, how many people have to fall victim to rape and how many sexual harassers get to walk free before we realize, that we have unconsciously been blaming the victim?