In my opinion, the myth about sexual violence, which is the most harmful and dangerous for the victim’s mental health, is that the sufferer was the initiator for the rape. The defenders of the criminals usually claim that the raped individuals were behaving provocatively and forcing them to misbehave. These statements make the patient feel insecure and uncertain in their beliefs for justice. They are afraid of being accused and not believed on top of their feeling of shame. Moreover, stating that they are to blame for the crime that they experienced, together with all the consequences such as nightmares, panic attacks, and sexual assault trauma can harm their mental health even harder. As it was with Talia, it can become the reason for physical, emotional, and psychological effects, which severely deteriorate the well-being (Plummer et al., 2014). As a result of such an unpleasant and humiliating experience, some of the victims might decide against struggling for justice, which later can result in the continuation of the crimes.
Victim blaming is usually not over with these abusive comments. The sexual criminals also tell that the subjects enjoyed the sexual act, pretending to have committed the act with mutual consent. I believe that it is as harmful to the well-being of the sufferer as the claims of their initiation of the assault. These actions of the criminals decrease the self-confidence of the subject affecting their life quality and may prevent people from reporting the crime (Ullman, 2010). Together with the previously mentioned accusations, they pose severe damage to the mental state of the victim. Sometimes they can lose the will for living because of being occupied by the feeling of shame and helplessness. Survivors may hesitate to reach the law enforcement organs for fear of being blamed, judged for misbehaving, or not believed. In such a way, victim blaming contributes to the rape culture in which the individuals responsible for the crimes are left unpunished and are stimulated to commit their misdemeanors further.
All myths of sexual assault are the efforts to excuse the criminal’s behavior by finding other factors for taking off the responsibility. The holders of these beliefs shift the blame to the victim without even considering the matter of the situation. The probable reasons for the persistency of rape myths are the gender roles that the general social mind admitted for a long time (Zastrow et al., 2019). The social sexism, which historically comes from the acceptance of the gender roles in the past ages make men privileged. In the past, there were cases when influential people like politicians and social workers committed these crimes. Hence the criminal records would be detrimental to their careers and reputations.
Consequently, women automatically got blamed because of persisting gender inequality. These phenomena also foster the spread of incorrect information concerning sexual abuse in society (Poteat et al., 2011). As a result, the false statements became entrenched in the social mindset, making the general environment, including friends and families, blame the victim. In the end, the survivors had no choice but to accept the violence even though it contradicted the justice principles. The further reason for the spread of the rape myths is the lack of education on this topic. The general community’s knowledge of sexual assault, stalking, and abuse should be promoted to reduce the effect of sexism and past social mindsets.
Plummer, S. -B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2014). Sessions: Case Histories. Laureate International Universities Publishing.
Poteat, V., Mereish, E., DiGiovanni, C., & Koenig, B. (2011). The effects of general and homophobic victimization on adolescents psychological and educational concerns: The importance of intersecting identities and parent support. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(4), 597-609. Web.
Ullman, S. E. (2010). Conducting interviews with survivors of sexual assault. In S. E. Ullman (Ed.), Talking about sexual assault: Society’s response to survivors (pp. 121-143). American Psychological Association.
Zastrow, C. H., Kirst-Ashman, K. K., & Hessenauer, S. L. (2019). Chapter 9: Gender, gender identity, gender expressional, and sexism. Understanding human behavior and the social environment (pp. 410-454). Cengage Learning.