(trigger warning: brief discussion of rape and victim-blaming)
Last week, David Mitchell beat and raped a 73 year old women. Nine days earlier, she had seen him masturbating in the bushes, and took a picture of him. Moments before the later assault, he asked her, “do you remember me?”
Since then, the incident has sparked discussion around whether or not she “provoked” the attack by taking his picture (spoiler alert: that’s garbage), and the new trend in reporting street harassment through social media.
To get the first question out of the way: No. There is absolutely nothing you can do that would warrant you somehow “deserving” or “provoking” an act of sexual violence upon yourself. Furthermore, in instances like this, harassers do not need and excuse to be “provoked.” If you respond, they may get violent. If you ignore them, they may get violent. Either way, it is never the victim’s fault. There’ll be more posts on victim-blaming and how harmful it is in the future, but for now, we’ll just leave it at that.
As for the second question, we live in a world where sexual assault and sexual harassment is one of the most under-reported crimes. In a 2003 survey, it was reported that 28% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace; less than a 1/3 placed a formal complaint. In a workplace, there is at least some system in place for you to make a complaint, no matter how flawed said system may be. It’s much harder to report street harassment.
The nature of street harassment is that you cannot always retaliate. Sometimes you don’t feel safe doing so, sometimes they’re gone before you can respond, sometimes you can’t even think of how to respond. That’s okay. The act of sharing photos, videos and stories of these incidents occurring lets people know that they are not alone. It lets people know that street harassment happens, and it is not okay. It lets harassers out there know that we can see them, and we will not tolerate them any longer.