Saturday, July 7, 2007

Shame Kills

While reading this story about a hate crime victim, I noticed something missing. They don't discuss the shame that is associated with any sexual assault. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that every two and a half minutes someone is sexually assaulted, one in six women will be assaulted, and one in thirty-three men.

David, the teen from Texas, survived being beaten, sodomized, burned with cigarettes, and drenched in bleach. He testified at the trial of his attackers, who were sentenced appropriately. David lived through all of this only to leap to his death on a cruise ship.

The article discusses how David put on a happy face, but was often concerned with the fact that everyone he met knew of what happened to him. This to me is what is most upsetting. Instead of feeling proud of the fact that he had survived such brutality, or that he helped put his monstrous attackers behind bars, he felt shame. That shame probably did not come from the beating, nor the cigarette burns. That shame spread from the sexual assault.

Sexual assault survivors are often made to feel that they are at fault for their attack. This most often applies to women, who are told that they are asking for it by being at a party drinking, or wearing revealing clothing. Men are made to feel that they are no longer masculine, and that they will be seen as "queer" for having been assaulted.

This is why we need to stop shaming victims of sexual assault. They are not at fault for the deplorable actions of others. David did not deserve to be abused in such a way, and he felt that he could no longer live with himself because the public knew of his assault. When we quit blaming victims, they will be more likely to heal.

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Farmington, NM, United States
Old enough to know better, young enough to change.