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Speaker encourages students to ‘Beat the Blame Game’

| Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Courtney Abbott, a speaker for Catharsis Productions, presented a powerful refutation of the victim shaming culture that often surrounds sexual violence accusations on Tuesday evening at Geddes Hall.

In her presentation, which was sponsored by the Gender Relations Center (GRC) and titled “Beat the Blame Game,” Abbott said victim blaming is harmful because it moves the fault away from those who deserve it.

“It removes responsibility from the perpetrator and the system,” she said.

The worst part of this culture, Abbott said, is that it enables the offenders.

“If the victims of any crime are not reporting that crime, the perpetrators are getting away with it,” she said. “We know for a fact this happens with sexual violence. When people are not called out for their actions, they will repeat and repeat and repeat their actions.”

Abbott said this victim blaming leads people to frequently doubt those who have suffered from sexual violence.

“Even with all of the awareness and the campaigns, we still live in a world that often looks at people who come forward saying they’ve been victimized with a lot of doubt,” she said.

Abbott said victims, instead of being treated with sympathy, are treated as cautionary tales many times.

“We want to see where they went wrong so we can make a moral fable out of it,” she said.

This criticizing of the victim takes two major forms, Abbott said, and she strongly disagrees with these tactics, especially when they attempt to discredit the victim for their lack of sobriety.

“We either attack someone’s character, or we attack someone’s choices,” she said.

The way in which sexual violence prevention is taught fails to prepare people for the reality of the situation, she said. Most common sexual assault avoidance strategies, like walking in groups and carrying pepper spray, are aimed at fending off assaults by strangers.

“Stranger attacks make up the minority of sexual assaults,” she said.

Abbott said people let their guard down when they’re around those they know.

“When we trust people and let them into our spaces, we think that these rules don’t apply,” Abbott said. “Unfortunately, the majority of sexual assaults are between people who do know each other.”

Abbott said sexual assaults could be prevented if everyone was mindful of consent and their partner’s limits.

“Looking for active, verbal, sober, ongoing consent throughout the experience is a great way to encourage yourself and your partner to have a better time,” she said. “It lets that person know that you respect his or her boundaries.”

Those close to victims must be willing to listen to and believe the victim, Abbott said. This is the only way more victims will start coming forward.

“If they trust you, you have to respect and live up to that trust,” Abbott said. “Help make a safe space for them.”

Abbott said everyone must make an effort to stop sexual violence through his or her actions and choices.

“If you make a choice to do nothing, you still picked a side,” Abbot said. “In this case, you’re enabling the predators.”

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