global politics, relationally

The “Privilege” of Being a Victim of Sexual Assault

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George Will recently suggested that liberal culture is making women claim to be victims of sexual assault when they are not, because liberals “make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges,” which makes “victims proliferate.” Really?

There is no universal experience of sexual assault victimhood. And as my research with Caron Gentry has argued, being a victim does not take away the agency of the person victimized. But I’ve rarely been so angry as reading the argument that being a rape victim is a privilege, so I wanted to share my .02 on some of the “privileges” of being a sexual assault victim.

The ‘privilege’ starts with a massive amount of physical pain. For people who were drugged and/or because of trauma, it continues with struggling to remember what happened and how it happened, a struggle for which the victim often feels guilt and fear. That struggle is not the only guilt – victims often deal with self-blame, shame, and humiliation, social stigma, and rejection from families, friends, and communities. Other ‘privileges’  of victimhood include constant physical fear and insecurity, heightened awareness of rape culture, nightmares and reliving the experience, difficulty communicating feelings, avoidance and social isolation, and a proneness to suicide. Even victims who don’t experience all of these things experience many of them – and they are most certainly not privileges. Anyone who says we don’t need feminism anymore might want to look at the number of hits this misogynist asshole gets.