Does Walking Backwards Mean “She Asked for It?”

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July 18, 2019 by thewashingteenian

By M. K. Powell, staff writer


I’ve had this dream where I’m walking backwards and I’m stabbed in the back. I take my apparently clear cut case to court, but no one here understands why. I walked backwards and, as everyone reasoned, my attacker had every right to stab me. The judge didn’t even have to give the verdict; everyone knew the stabber, guilty or not, would go free, while I would go home with a neglected hole in my back. The judge didn’t feel it was bad enough that this man would simply stab someone; no one cared about that. Everyone cared more about the fact that I was walking backwards, which, in their minds, invited him to stab me.

It seems silly, right? It’s the same logic as killing a man for wearing a white shirt. Of course, you get a free pass if you kill him; he was wearing white after July. But isn’t there something off with that reasoning? Placing more emphasis on the irresistibility of stabbing over the fact that it’s wrong? What I have just described is the international approach to “sexual” violence in a nutshell. (As an aside, you may be wondering why I put sexual in quotes. Assault is not sexual; sex is only consensual. Sex is not, and can not, be assault, harassment or violence; violence is violence, and we need to look at it as so.) 

The older I’ve gotten the less right and control I’ve noticed society has decided I have over my body. I have to be a certain weight, I have to dress a certain way, and Lord forbid I was wearing the wrong thing or a man would have the right to assault me because I was asking for it.

But walking backwards shouldn’t be asking for violence. You can walk backwards, sideways or forwards and this man would still have commited a crime. Because no matter what you do, how you look, or how you move, what he has done is illegal and wrong. 

You can wear steel pants, or skirts to your ankles, you can only travel by day or walk home after dark in  a suit of armor, and you are no more at fault for a crime that was committed against you. 

But let’s say maybe you’re like I was and you prided yourself on being prepared. Maybe today you were rewarded by your suit of armor detering the assaulter. But even if it does today, what about when he finds someone else with a big enough chip in their suit to slip into? Maybe you, like I did, and most of society, wonder if it was their fault that he found a way in. Or maybe you, like the people in my dream, ask trivial questions, like, were they walking backwards? 

The seemingly simplistic questions left unasked in this discourse as victims are proven more guilty by public opinion than perpetrators is essentially the same question I opened with: did the perpetrator commit a crime? And does the victim truly deserve to be shamed for it?

Is walking backwards really asking for it?

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