Slut-Shaming: Another Form of Bullying

Verbal assaults can come at all levels of adolescence, especially for young girls. There is one element of attack that I find particular heinous and it relates to sexuality. It’s bad enough when a teen girl that is not sexually active is considered a prude or uptight, but a girl considered sexually active is labeled as easy, cheap, and, yes, slutty. You just can’t win!  Teens are brutal when it comes to talk of alleged promiscuity. The verbal and non-verbal attacks upon those accused of such an act is called slut-shaming.  Both boys and girls are guilty of slut-shaming young teen girls, and although they may feel their knowledge of the facts justifies their hurtful verbal attacks, they do not understand the damage that is being done to the victim.

Slut-shaming does not just target girls with reputations for being promiscuous or sexually active. Many young teens experience this type of harassment just by the clothes they wear or the “vibe” they give off to others.  If girls are offended by another girl’s behavior, jealous or threatened, the result could be slut-shaming. Non-verbal messages of disapproval, disgust, or shame can be relayed through body language and mistreatment such as eye rolling, laughing, exclusion and comments via social media.  Regardless of how a girl gets that title, it can be very serious with permanent consequences.  Slut-shaming is a form of bullying and this type of verbal assault can leave a girl with low self-esteem feeling guilty, dirty, and possibly cheap. Many girls that are victims of slut-shaming don’t know where to go for help to escape the hurtful labels and attacks. Sadly, statistics show that teenagers are resorting to taking their own life to escape the abuse and label. This has to end.

Once again, like many things in life, there is a double standard for men and women, that is clearly seen.  There is a set of sexual rules that apply to men and boys and another set of rules that apply to women and girls. The rules for boys promote promiscuity and sexual activity with multiple partners. In fact, boys learn early on that is may be a way to gain approval, and validation by their peers. However, girls are expected to abide by another set of rules that discourages expressing themselves through experiences, clothes, and attitudes about sex. When those rules are broken, the affects can be brutal. Although slut-shaming is done by both teen girls and boys, it typically lies in the hands of girls.  We cannot excuse the role that boys play; however, girls seem to take part in this behavior far more often.  Why do we condemn instead of protect and uplift our fellow woman?

Combating against slut-shaming begins with young girls and women. No more passing unfair judgment on one another because of the way someone dresses, carries them self, or based on their “assumed” sexual behaviors. Draw the line.

Bottom line, everyone is entitled to own their own sexuality. Girls and women should be comfortable with their sex life, their decisions, and their bodies. People have no right to label or pass judgment on anyone for their lifestyle choices. These labels can have serious consequences. A person’s sexual lifestyle is their choice, and their choice should not result in bullying of any type. I’m not saying that I condone teen sex, I’m saying that labeling a girl’s sexuality in any way is damaging and unacceptable.

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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.