A Girl's Guide to Being Friends With Girls

{February 23, 2012}   A Girl’s Guide to Being Friends With Girls: Victims

This is not a topic I want to touch on.  This is not a topic anyone WANTS to touch on or talk about, but sadly it’s necessary.

I’ve said before that my goal isn’t for all girls out there to be friends with each other.  Sometimes I even feel like the title itself is a mistake or misleading.  And this week is another case where I’m not so much concerned with friendship as I am with just not being rotten to each other.

I’m talking about our reactions to other women who have been victims of abuse, sexual assault and rape.

My decision to talk about this topic this week has pretty obviously been influenced by the whole Chris Brown situation.  But I’m not going to talk about Chris Brown himself, that’s been done ample times already by sources who have said things far better than I could, including Sasha Pasulka and WWE Superstar CM Punk.

I’m also not going to necessarily directly address the girls who, in the wake of Chris Brown receiving a Grammy award, proudly proclaimed to the world that they would let Brown beat them.  There’s already an amazing open letter on The Rumpus that expresses my sentiments perfectly.

In fact, I don’t want to talk about our reactions to Chris Brown at all.

I want to talk about our reactions to Rihanna.  And, by extension, our reactions to other women who have become victims of abuse.

And that’s a lot of women.  Statistically, 1 in 6 women has been the victim of a rape or attempted rape1 in 3 American women and 1 in 4 women worldwide has been the victim of dating or domestic violence.

You would think, with this being such a horrifically common thing, there would be more understanding and empathy towards victims.  Sadly, the exact opposite is often true.

Let’s use Rihanna as our example.  Right after the assault occurred (if you can stomach it, an excerpt from the police report is here) the reactions were less than supportive.  There were a lot of sentiments along the lines of “She had it coming,” designer Christian Siriano even famously responded to a question about the situation by saying “Rihanna can be kind of a diva” and claiming she must have “provoked” Chris Brown.

It’s not as if he was alone.  In the past three years, plenty of people have claimed that because Rihanna reportedly hit Brown first (the police report says otherwise) she deserved to be beaten within an inch of her life.  That somehow, a woman Rihanna’s size, unarmed, made Brown feel so threatened he had to beat her head against the car window repeatedly, choke her and threaten her.  Some even went so far as to say that Rihanna deserved it not for hitting Brown, but for merely touching his cell phone and checking his messages (which is what reportedly provoked the fight).

In fact, the world was so distrustful of the situation that reports were not enough, they would not truly believe the damage could be “that bad” until TMZ violated Rihanna’s privacy and leaked a photo taken at the hospital.

This is not a situation unique to Rihanna.  Victims constantly face the idea of “You provoked it,” “You had it coming,” “You could have stopped it.”  Rape victims deal with “What were you wearing?”  “Why did you have so much to drink?”  “Did you have sex with him and regret it so now you’re calling it rape?”  And not just from their abusers, but from other people.

And from other women.

Look, I can understand where the mentality comes from.  The thought of being abused or raped is a scary thing.  Look at those statistics I posted again.  That’s FRIGHTENING.  But we’re also aware we can’t control the actions of rapists or abusers.  That’s out of our control.

What we can control is ourselves and our actions.  So, if we manage to place the blame on the person abused or raped, we find a loophole.  Obviously THEY did something wrong which led to this happening, and if WE can avoid doing that, we’re safe.  It has to be their fault because that way we can be sure it’s never OUR fault.

But that doesn’t fly, obviously.  It’s bad logic.  Blaming other women will not prevent you from becoming a victim.  You know what will?

Addressing the abusers.  Teaching abusers that violence is not the same as power, that love is not controlling someone, that when someone doesn’t say “yes” to sex they mean “no.”  We need to teach people not to abuse or rape before they become abusers and rapists and we need to work with offenders to pinpoint the ways of thinking that led them to acting that way.

I don’t care if you dislike someone who’s been abused, if you think they’re a skank/bitch/whore, whatever.  I don’t care if they stole your doll when you were 5 or your boyfriend when you were 18.  NO ONE DESERVES THIS SORT OF TREATMENT.

As for the reactions to Rihanna going back to Chris Brown and working with him on a new album…that gets tricky.  No, I don’t think Rihanna should be doing that, but once again someone else has addressed that very well.  But in the end, I can’t control what Rihanna does, nor can Billboard.  Ideally, the only person in the world who can control what Rihanna does is Rihanna.

But I’m scared that’s not true.  I think as much control as Rihanna has over herself, Chris Brown has some, too.

The mentality of abuse is difficult to really describe, but what you have to realize is that abuse is never just physical.  A successful abuser needs to ensure their victim will keep returning for more.  This requires creating a mental and emotional dependence on the person destroying you.

Because of this, returning to an abuser is common.  Rihanna is not a rare case.  And honesty, that victim blaming I’m talking about?  Yeah, I’m sure that’s not helping.

Think about it.  For three years Rihanna has been told the incident was her fault, that by not publicly forgiving Chris Brown and acting like nothing had happened she was “ruining” his career (think about that, the woman who was beaten was ruining the woman beater’s career.  THINK ABOUT IT), that because of her people wouldn’t let the situation fade.

You don’t think maybe she internalized some of that?  Maybe there’s a chance she came to believe that?  And hey, maybe she HASN’T forgiven Chris Brown, but for some reason believes it’s good for business/album sales for her to act like she is…because people will like her more/buy more records if she stops acting like getting beaten was a big deal (ignoring the part where it WAS).

The blaming has got to stop.  Not just with celebrities.  With ALL OF US.

Blaming each other is not going to end the cycle.  Instead, we need to do the direct opposite.  Band together and demand that things change.  Support each other in dark times.  Refuse to excuse abusers who themselves refuse to address what they’ve done, admit they were wrong and work to change (IE: acting like winning a Grammy totally shows all the people who called you a violent woman beater.  So you won a Grammy.  Guess what that makes you: a violent woman beater with a Grammy).

For more information on rape and abuse, you can visit RAINN and DoSomething’s page on dating violence.


Brilliant… we really need to change out thinking about this topic. And I believe we need to change girls thinking about this topic. Girls (women) need to really get that it’s never OK for someone to hit you, NEVER. And we need to teach boys (men) that it’s never OK to hit someone else. Hitting should never be a solution for anything. In the current political climate we are seeing a movement to turn back the time on women’s rights and on how we treat women. It scares the shit out of me to know that we could wake up one day and literally be stuck in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. Again. Ladies, we need to support each other not to demean and diminish each other. We need to support women who have been raped or abused not blame them because we are afraid it might happen to us. We need to educate our girls in school about dating violence. We can’t sit idly by and hope it goes away. My generation fought long and hard for the rights we do have. Lets honor those who fought by continuing the fight and standing together and not tearing each other down…

Thanks for posting this. Brilliant…

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