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OUR BODIES, OURSELVES READING ROOM
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Blaming the Victim

The most common emotional responses to sexual harassment, battering, and rape are guilt, fear, powerlessness, shame, betrayal, anger, and denial. Guilt is often the first and deepest response. Anger may arise only later; this is not surprising, because as women we often have no sense of a right to be free from these kinds of violence.

We may feel guilty about violence done to us because we are taught that our job is to make men happy, and if they aren't, we--not they--are to blame. Many of us heard from our parents, "Boys will be boys, so girls must take care"--the message being that we can avoid unwanted male attention if only we are careful enough. If anything goes wrong, it must be our fault. Blaming the victim releases the man who commits violence from the responsibility for what he has done. Friends or family may blame the victim in order to feel safe themselves: "She got raped because she walked alone after midnight. I'd never do that, so rape won't happen to me."

WOMEN ARE NOT GUILTY FOR VIOLENCE COMMITTED BY MEN ON OUR BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT. THIS VIOLENCE HAPPENS BECAUSE OF MEN'S GREATER POWER AND THEIR MISUSE OF THAT POWER.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Toward an Understanding of Male Violence Against Women

Race, Class, and Violence Against Women

Blaming the Victim

Sexual Harassment

Domestic Violence

Sexual Assault

Incest and Sexual Abuse of Children

The Sex Industry

Defending Ourselves Against Violence

Ending Violence Against Women

Notes

Resources

 

Copyright 1984, 1992, 1998 by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. All rights reserved. Published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

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