Why do we Blame the Victim?

self-esteemand teen bullyingWhy do we blame the victim?

Every two and a half minutes a woman is sexually assaulted, and the risk is four times greater for, teens between the ages of 15-19.  This is a very scary statistic and means every teenage girl is susceptible to sexual assault.  The definition of sexual assault is so broad that it can be misunderstood and leave victims feeling confused, guilty and ashamed.  What is even sadder, 70% of the victims know their assailant.  But what makes sexual assault even more destructive is the high percentage of victims that are blamed for their attack.  Sadly, family members and friends are often first to blame the victim.  They are easily persuaded by doubt, or be convinced the victim asked for the assault based on their knowledge of the victim. This is called victim blaming.

Victim blaming in relation to sexual assault happens quite often.  An assault is committed and the victim is blamed for the crimes.  Sometimes the victim blaming rears its head in very subtle ways.  Friends, neighbors and the local community may respond to the victim by either ignoring them, and treating them like an outcast, or verbally attacking the victim.  Sadly, victim blaming doesn’t stop there, professional workers that should be on the side of the victim, including doctors, lawyers and the media, have doubts about the victim’s story or believe that the attack is somehow justifiable.  People are often convinced that the victim deserved the treatment or asked for it.  This kind of treatment is wrong and it can be very hurtful and leave the victim feeling alone and depressed.

The reality of victim blaming for sexual assault plagues thousands of women but is most common among teens.  Teens are very fragile and impressionable and can easily be influenced, and convinced that maybe they are the ones to be blamed for their assault or abuse.  After all, if everyone believes it is their fault, then maybe they did ask for the attack or even deserved the attack.  This is victim blaming at its worst because now not only does everyone believe it is the victims fault, but the victim believes it too, and the saddest part of the crime is the assailant or criminal is never punished and get away with what they have done.

Women and teens of sexual assault don’t just get better, especially when victim blaming is involved.  There is a lot of mental and emotional damage that has been done and because many have blamed the victim, and even the victim has blamed herself, she never gets the help that is needed.  A lot of teens end up carrying the incident all of their life and for many teens, this can have negative effects on their future. It can lead to depression, low self-esteem and self inflicted violence such as cutting. Many victims cannot have functional or healthy relationships with people especially men.  Others may be so damaged by the assault and being blamed that they just don’t recover and struggle to live a normal and healthy life.

The bottom line is, nobody deserves to be sexually abused or assaulted, and the brutal attack of women and teens is never asked for or deserved.  The victim should never be persuaded or convinced that their behaviors asked for the assault or they deserved it.  It doesn’t matter the circumstance, an unwanted or unwelcome sexual assault is a crime that has the fingerprints of the assailant all over it and never the victim.

Victims need to get through their assault by getting help and there is help available that can restore them mentally and emotionally and help them to move forward.  Here’s is a great website  and a great resource for parents and teens to learn more.

 

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Overcoming Bullying: One Teen’s Story of Bullying and Survival

I believe being comfortable with myself will make me happy regardless of my situation.

This belief could come from the fact that I was bullied during the fifth and sixth grade. I had been friends with a girl for maybe two or three years, but then I decided to hang out with my other friend more than her. She felt betrayed, but I didn’t really notice what I was doing to her and she never brought it up. Then the bullying started. I figured that eventually she’d get over it or she’d get tired and stop. But she didn’t.

My former friend would pull my hair, punch me, and kick me…she even stabbed me with a pen once and broke my skin. I think my other friends tried to intervene as much as they could without getting anyone in trouble. It just wasn’t enough. I try to analyze why I never said anything and I guess it’s because I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble either. Even though she clearly was not acting like a friend anymore, I still felt loyalty to her from our past history. I also thought that if I didn’t acknowledge the situation, then it wouldn’t actually be real. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. The situation got to a point where it was really unsafe. I don’t know what would have happened if my mom hadn’t finally found out.

I guess she had noticed these marks on my body, but I’ve always kind of been prone to bruising so she didn’t think anything of them. Then one day she was walking me to school – which she rarely did – and she saw my friend pull my hair. She forced me to tell her about the bullying, and I broke down crying. She told me to talk to my teacher – which I did – and then the principal got involved too.

It was really awkward for me because we were a small class of about 30 and my former friend and I ran in the same clique of only five girls. I was nervous about what would happen to the friends I did like. Would they get angry at me for snitching on someone or would they stand by me? Surprisingly, the whole clique continued to hang out even though it was really awkward. My former friend and I just avoided each other completely. I’m not sure how we did that considering our group was so small…I guess that’s what made it so awkward.

On the positive side, I finished that year with a better sense of who I was. I learned from the experience.  I’m not going to ever let it happen to me – or anyone else – again. I swore that to myself. Since I was able to beat my problem and grow from it, now I know that I can handle anything.

FOMO: Do You Have It?

Quick — do you know what your friends are doing right now?  As you read this, are you waiting for the ping of a new text coming in?  Are you hooked on Twitter and FB? If so, you may suffer from FOMO.

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, has recently been identified as a phenomenon not only in the US, but worldwide (as this story about teens in South Africa and teens in India shows) and those in the “millennial generation.”  It has become such a widespread trend that this past summer Kotex even used it as a theme in its new marketing campaign citing that “94% of girls experience FOMO.”  Suffering from FOMO means constantly checking Facebook status updates and other social media sites and feeling that other people are always doing something better than whatever you’re doing.  FOMO can leave you feeling sad, left out or boring.
As social media seeps into every corner of our lives, more studies have emerged chronicling the ways in which its effects can be negative.  Generally speaking, fractured attention and lack of ability to focus are seen as the offshoots of too much online time.  But going online to “compare and despair” by reading friends’ news-feeds and then getting the sense that you’re not attending the hottest parties or having the best time can be damaging to your self-esteem, never-mind that it paints a false picture.

We all know how easy it is to leave out the bad parts when we tell a friend an anecdote about what we did last weekend. It’s deceptively simple to only post your best Instagram photo or share the night’s funniest 10 second moment in a cute tweet.  On some level, we know that’s not the whole story.  But if you’re stuck doing homework when everyone else seems to be partying, it’s impossible to not feel a stab of regret or envy.

While detaching from social media sites (at least for an hour at a time, if not longer) can help, it isn’t the entire answer. Don’t let FOMO make you feel that your choice to be with family or even have a night to yourself is less cool.  Sometimes finishing up a long homework project, practicing an instrument or cleaning your room is necessary and will feel worthwhile in the end.  So much about social media reinforces instant gratification.  Work now to identify what you value most so that FOMO doesn’t make you her slave!

Say NO to FOMO’s siren call. Don’t sleep with the phone by your side or computer on.  Try to avoid getting stressed because of what someone else claims to be doing. Don’t let it make you feel less than.  Create your own priorities and take the time for the things important to you. Breathe deeply when you feel anxious and don’t let your sense of validation come from the story you put up on your Facebook page or twitter feed.  Reframe “missing out” as “doing what I want to do” and realize how good that feels.  Don’t forget… YOLO :)