Victims Voices Regina is telling stories that matter
victim blaming needs to end.
CW: This article discusses rape, rape culture, and sexual assault
I want to begin this article by acknowledging that I am speaking from personal experience, and from the perspective of a woman. I acknowledge that I use the term “women” as a constant throughout this piece, but I also want to relay that I understand sexual assault affects people of all genders, regardless of sexual orientation.
When the Instagram page @victimsvoicesregina was removed from the social media site about one week ago following a libel lawsuit, it silenced the voices of page administrators, as well as victims and survivors of sexual assault in Regina.
On September 1, 2020, a new page was created – @victimsvoicesyqr, which continues to garner support. The first post reads, “The work done by @victimsvoicesregina needs to continue. By sharing our stories, we are making known how frequently these events occur, how an abuser’s behaviour affects survivors, and how survivors are strong enough to stand together and speak up.”
The purpose of the Instagram pages are to “[c]ontinue the conversation.” They were and are spaces “to anonymously share experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence,” as the description on the account reads.
However, as the pages gathered a large following within the city and people began to share the names of their abuser(s) with their stories, the once safe and inclusive space the page created became a vile and dangerous environment for survivors. This was because of the way others reacted to the posts; the victim blaming and “slut shaming” of those sharing their stories became a common occurrence.
Being blamed and questioned is one of the most damaging things that can happen to an individual who has experienced sexual assault. Someone who comes forward about their experience is asked questions like: What were you wearing at the time? How much did you drink? Did he buy you a drink? Were you flirting with him? These questions attempt to shift blame onto the victim, rather than offer the support and validation a survivor needs in that moment.
It is so important that survivors are listened to and supported. Much too often, people who have been assaulted do not receive the justice they deserve because there is not enough evidence to hold the abuser accountable for their actions, and their testimony is not taken seriously.
I find it very upsetting that nearly every single woman I know has had a violent sexual experience, yet no one seems to know a man who is an abuser. Society needs to change the narrative here and begin holding abusers accountable, giving victims space to share their stories in a safe environment.
“When the original Victims Voices Regina page was taken down due to legal issues, an outlet was taken away from those who needed it,” read a post made on the @victimsvoicesyqr page, 2 September 2020. “The voices of our oppressors will not be louder than ours, [and] we will not allow them to change the topic.”
As a young woman who has been in a number of vulnerable and/or uncomfortable situations like this, I think it is very important to speak out about rape/abuse culture in society as well as on campus.
I recall one day in kindergarten when I went to the recess teacher crying because one of my male classmates was pulling my hair and hitting me. The response I received was, “Honey, that means he has a crush on you.” Why are young girls being taught that abuse is equal to love?
I recall one day in eighth grade where my teacher said, “Reese, you can’t wear that outfit because you may be distracting the boys.” I was wearing an athletic tank top and jean shorts – nothing that was generally deemed risqué. Why are young girls being taught that it is their job to cover themselves up, while young boys are not taught the importance of consent?
I recall a party in high school where I had to fight to get out of the hands of a very intoxicated classmate who was trying to touch me in a way I did not want. When I walked back into the party crying, I was called a slut. When he stumbled his way back, he was given countless high fives. Why do young girls get shamed for telling the truth, while boys are praised and cover it up?
I recall leaving Archer Library late one night and walking to my car, where I was followed, whistled at, and spoken to very inappropriately. I felt as though I had to clutch my keys in tightly in my hand so I may have some form of protection if they were to get closer. Why do women feel immediately in danger if they have to walk alone in the dark?
Women did not create this environment themselves. Victims of sexual assault are never “asking for it.”
There is currently a trend on TikTok, another social media site, where a girl asks her friend to hold her drink when at a party, club, or bar. The friend then puts their hand on the top of the beverage to ensure that no one can put anything into the girl’s drink. People are still using social media to talk about the subject of consent violations at parties, and how scary it can be for vulnerable people to trust nearly anyone.
These videos would not have to exist if people did not feel as though they were in danger at when they go out. Unfortunately, when women bring up this issue, we are often told, “that’s party culture; just don’t go out if you’re worried.” This response in no way helps to educate people or prevent these situations, and again, it shifts all responsibility onto the vulnerable person, as if any violence or harm that comes to them will be their fault.
Victims Voices YQR is a host for a very important conversation that needs to be taking place everywhere with all people. It is a safe and anonymous space for survivors to share their experiences and continue the conversation in Regina, and deserves our support.