It’s no secret that victim blaming is everywhere. It’s also no secret that in order to defeat rape culture, victim blaming needs to be extinguished from our societal mindset. Questioning the actions of victims, whether they drank, walked alone or danced on a table wearing a bikini, places the blame on somebody other than the only person who deserves it: the rapist (or rapists, if that is the case). A woman can dance on a table, drink and walk alone without anything bad happening; the only time rape occurs is when a rapist enters into the equation (shocking, I know).
So why are people still wondering what survivors should’ve done or should do in the aftermath to prevent their own pain? In particular, why are establishments that are supposed to be educating and helping young people achieve their goals attempting to stifle voices who cry out against violence while practically putting a megaphone to the rapists’ mouths?
Dana Bolger, a senior and rape survivor at Amherst where students like Angie Epifano have faced blame parties by the administration and ignorance toward the violence, organized a series of photos using quotes from students’ experiences regarding their rapes and, typically, subsequent dismissals. Whether it’s telling a woman that she needs to transfer schools and “wait it out” for her rapist to graduate–because he deserves a clear mind while he learns, obviously–or implying that fighting “harder” might have worked or that being in somebody’s bed gives them the right to violate you, victim blaming will always be the wrong reaction.
Bolger describes the photos and their intent:
The photographs below feature eleven men and women who were sexually assaulted at Amherst College and the words that members of our community said to them following their assaults. Not every survivor is holding his or her own sign; some of the students have transferred or dropped out of Amherst College out of fear of their attackers’ continued presence on campus or from lack of options in the face of an unsympathetic administration…
In our impulse to point a finger outward at the Amherst administration, let us not forget to look inward at our own complicity in the creation of a culture that gives Angie’s rapist the power to act and our administration the power to silence and dismiss her experience.
I urge you to see the words in these photographs—see them, be angry—and then recall your own words. I think we have all, at some time, in some way—through our jokes, our questions, our arguments—silenced a survivor…What I hope you will read in Angie’s article and see in the photographs below is that it is time to demand transformation from yourself.
This series shows quite a bit about the level of violence at Amherst, but even more so about Amherst’s treatment of its survivors. Take a look. For the rest of the photos and an extended explanation by Bolger, go to It Happens At Amherst.