Victim Blaming Is Alive And Well.
By Mike Archer. When you read that someone has suffered from abuse, two images generally come to mind – a husband hitting his wife, or, an adult preying upon a child.
When you start to qualify the term with words like mental, spousal, parental, sexual, or physical, it has a way of not only clarifying and, perhaps, explaining the abuse, but also categorizing it and, sometimes, allowing us to feel that there must be a program or support group to help the victims.
We remember ad campaigns, headlines or news stories and are left concerned, but no longer angry, about what we read.
The victim is never so lucky. The victim is left to heal or suffer, hurt or ‘deal with it,’ face it and put it behind them, or try to run away.
The victim can never run away from the abuse. It is always, always there.
This is why it is so important for those charged with helping the abused to understand that minimizing, dismissing or rushing to put the abuse in the past only interferes with any healing process and can cause further damage by, in effect, belittling the victim.
In the case of sexual abuse, police are often the first, and sadly, the last people many women face when they work up the courage to call for help. An Abbotsford woman who reported a case of abuse by her partner has come away from the experience hurt and angry with the way she was treated by the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the woman is infuriated with her treatment at the hands of the police and, when she demanded and received edited copies of the police report on her case, she decided to share her story.
She was asking for it
“I reported a sexual assault [to the APD] and the cop wrote that I was ‘parading around in my underwear‘ [prior to the incident]. Victim blaming, much? It also passed through the staff Sgt. who apparently took no issues with it. The entire [police report] reeks of victim blaming.
“I remember saying it was maybe partially my fault for dressing that way … although he didn’t put that in [the report]. Guess he was fine with letting me believe that was true,” she says.
“I particularly enjoyed the ‘no injury’ statement in the report.”
Most police departments, and the APD is no different, have at least one officer who is tasked with dealing with sexual assault cases. The woman in question was made even more angry about her treatment when she was told that the officer who handled her complaint was the APD’s ‘sexual assault go-to guy‘.
During her interview with Abbotsford Today the woman asked if she could make a statement about the whole process and the way she was, in effect, made to go through the abuse all over again when she read the police report.
Dirty. Broken. Used
“When I received the copy of the police report in the mail my heart broke a second time. You see, the person who did this to me wasn’t a bad person. He wasn’t some random, angry stranger on a power trip. He was my partner, someone I trusted. Someone who seemed safe. After the attack, I felt violated. Dirty. Broken. Used. Responsible. I felt like it was my fault. I wasn’t sure if it was truly a sexual assault… I mean, I was his, wasn’t I? And if he wasn’t that sort of person, then it must have been me who brought it out in him. How awful was I to bring a man to rape? Maybe I should just learn to shut my mouth.
“He did promise to get counselling to ensure that it would never happen again with other women. When I realised that wasn’t going to happen, I decided to report it to the police. Would he do it again? I had no idea, but I did know that if it did I wanted a record of my experience so that hopefully the process might go easier for the next woman.
“He told his parents what he had done and they lawyered him up immediately. They didn’t tell him to take responsibility for what he did. They got him a lawyer who wrote him a letter to email to me explaining that he would not be apologising and any contact in the future would be through his attorney.
“When I went in to file a report, the officer who interviewed me seemed nice. He asked questions and looked generally concerned. I felt heard and supported. He explained to me that this sort of thing is never the victim’s fault.
“And then the report came in the mail and I read those words, “parading around in her underwear.” Parading.
“And my heart broke again.
“I was angry and confused. Women, since birth, are raised to equate self-worth with attractiveness. We’re told to shave our bodies, wear makeup, do our hair. Be attractive. Be sexy.Don’t curse too much. Learn to cook and clean. Be a ‘lady on the street and a freak in the sheets’. Be whatever society, (men), decide you should be. Apparently, though, if we get too good at being attractive men who have not been taught how to control themselves will rape us. And that’ll be our fault, too. And when you go to the police for help, they’ll disempower, victim-blame and discourage us from reporting any similar activities in the future.”
The Abbotsford woman made efforts to help herself during the long process of healing.
At one point during the process of dealing with what had happened to her, she ran into someone whom she thought could understand what she was going through.
“I had one [officer] who was super nice, used to check on me to make sure [my abuser] wasn’t bothering me. Then I volunteered with an organization which exposes violence against women, and now he won’t return my calls. Won’t say why, but that’s the only thing I’ve done that could be disappointing to him.
“I was talking with family about maybe getting this report out to women’s centres. I think the public needs to know that victim blaming in public service is alive and well. If the cops don’t like it, too bad. Not like they’ve ever done anything for me anyway.”
“Another time I called because [my abuser] was threatening me. The officer came out and asked why I don’t move. I explained that my daughter’s dad wouldn’t let me. I requested the report and saw that, in it, he said that he suspected I was lying to get welfare to pay for my move to Vancouver.
“I wasn’t even on welfare! That time the staff Sgt called me a million times and changed the report. Just to cover their asses I’m sure. I have a copy of the original.”,
Editor’s note: Abbotsford Today has seen the police report referred to in this story and can verify the statements made by the victim. We were given permission to publish the report but are choosing not to do so in order to protect the woman’s identity.
Cover photo – photographer unknown.
Video: OPPRESSED MAJORITY (Majorité Opprimée English), by Eleonore Pourriat