The Problem With Victim Blaming
by Citlacti Carrera-López
Sarah Everard was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered by Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens on March 3rd, 2021. On March 9th, Couzens was arrested for suspicion of her kidnapping and later suspicion of her murder. One month later, Couzens pleaded guilty and three months after that he was sentenced to a whole life order. This case has been a viral story circulating the web and various news outlets this year. It has been the incentive to protest for women's rights, fighting against gender-based violence and harassment against women. However, this case is only one of many. There have been many unfortunate cases similar to Sarah Everards; cases in which women are harassed or assaulted by people in society who are meant to protect them.
One in five women in the United States experienced or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime. One in three female victims of sexual assault (or victims of attempted sexual assault) experienced it for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. The statistics go on and on. The point is that this is happening too often and at extremely high rates. It has been a problem that has gone on for too long and deserves immediate attention. Within the topics of gender-based violence and harassment against women, there is the idea of “victim-blaming”. This is an issue that is rarely brought up when speaking about women's issues, yet it is extremely important to acknowledge.
Victim blaming is defined similarly to its name. It is when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. This form of thinking has incredibly negative effects on the victim because they now believe it was their fault someone chose to do something bad to them. Victim blaming typically happens when discussing sexual assault or sexual harassment cases with respect to women. When a woman is sexually assaulted it is not unusual to hear that the way they dressed or behaved was what caused them to be sexually assaulted. This leaves the victim with an immense amount of guilt and hate towards themselves because they believe that if they might have done something different they wouldn't have been put in such a situation. However, changing the way a woman dresses or behaves does not change the mindset of a rapist who makes the choice to rape women, in general.
Similar to other cases of sexual assault, Sarah Everard faced heavily victim-blaming comments which enraged many. People were blaming Sarah for not being able to fight her rapist and escape the kidnapping. In addition to this, a curfew was placed on men in the UK to not leave their homes past a certain hour in order to secure the safety of women. However, the men in the U.K did not enjoy the idea of being put on a curfew and instead wanted a curfew for women. This further incentivized women and men to protest for justice towards Sarah Everard’s case and any woman who has been through similar situations. The curfew on women and comments of victim-blaming put out the message that women have to adapt to men’s behaviors rather than educate men on issues against women.
In the committee UNW, delegates are going into depth about similar cases to those of Sarah Everards and educating themselves and others about the struggles women face in everyday society. PANAMUN has created a safe environment where women and men can speak about issues affecting themselves or others and find solutions that take into account everyone's perspectives on the issue. As a community, it is our job and responsibility to spread awareness and strive for change even if that change is small or may seem insignificant. Any type of change is still change and is one step closer to a society we are proud to be a part of.