As women or even as girls most of us have been slut shammed. This is a sad fact of our society, a practice which has happened in many forms throughout history, although the term was apparently only brought to life in the new age of social media, with platforms readily available for people to offer their opinions on everything and one of the most prolific of discrimination women face online is slut shaming. With young girls being subjected to this from their pre-teens onward.
A girl or woman has a uncompromising task in society to be both sexy and modest, with the goal post moving back and forth, with men asserting themselves whilst diminishing women.
As well as the patriarchal agenda, internalised misogyny exists within women who themselves can be the harshest critics of themselves and other women. Their have been countless times with my female friends when they have called other women and girls sluts, whores or suggested that they are “asking for it”, these are women in their thirties and in the same breath they will also decide that if they wear “that dress” they themselves will be seen as a slut, or if they sleep with a man “too soon” they will be deemed a whore. It pains me as I know this rhetoric is damaging for us, for everyone.
Certain people are thought to be more “slutty” than others just because they belong to certain ethnicity’s or groups. Such as women of colour, in particular black women – who for a long time have been subjected to the disturbing suggestion that they are “wilder” less tame – by white people and the residual effect is still believed by many.
Sexual assault victims (like myself) can be deemed a slut just for being raped or assaulted with the perception that we must have provoked the attack or act, by wearing certain clothes, red lipstick or just because we were sexually active before hand.
The LGBTQ community can be also deemed more promiscuous or “sexually deviant”, due to archaic beliefs that this community is rooted in perversion.
Th fact is that if you are using the word slut to describe others or yourself then you are contributing to the rhetoric of slut shaming and ultimately rape culture.
Ask yourself why you are concerned by what others do with their sexuality, what they wear or how many partners they have had?
Then ask yourself why some people are exempt from this discrimination, do you judge everyone equally?
And lastly if you are shaming yourself, it maybe useful to find out where this shame originates from, it may have been some one else’s judgement you have held onto and deemed your belief or part of your identity, let go of this by unpacking it, seek support – be kinder to yourself.
If this judgement is your own, of yourself, then possibly you are internalising misogyny and this can be very unhealthy for your self esteem and self worth.
These ideas have not always existed in me, I have had to do lots of work to understand this socially acceptable discrimination. However, it is not a word I use and even if the word arises in me at moments of weakness or self loathing I am able to challenge them and let go.
We can challenge, raise awareness and let go together.
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When I was raped at 15 my clothes were taken as evidence. I wore a gypsy top (off the shoulder) with some black leggings. When the police said that my clothes would be used as evidence I presumed in my naivety, that it would be in case of DNA samples, which of course was part of it. However, I in no way knew until told that they would be used by the defence – against me. This archaic procedure affected me greatly, I internalised the blame and shame that was being thrown at me, believing that the responsibility was mine, that I had invited this. That women and girls are responsible for not getting themselves raped. I didn’t challenge this until much older, when I was able to see this entire situation from an adults perspective.
If I had been naked would it have been OK to be violently raped and forced to perform sexual acts, leaving me bruised and bleeding, needing surgery? The answer is NO!
If it is my fault for “dressing provocatively” then this must mean that women in modest attire or religious clothing such as the hijab or nikab, don’t get raped? Which is NOT true.
All survivors of sexual violence, assault and abuse, whether they are women, men, non binary or trans – were not violated because of their clothes or lack of. Otherwise we could assume that there is a standard “rape outfit”, a pattern in certain clothing items which were worn by victims. But there is NOT!
For example, “What were you wearing?” the exhibit at the Centre Communautaire Maritime in Brussels features replicated clothing items to those worn by victims of sexual assault. The exhibit states that it wishes to: “create a tangible response to one of our most pervasive rape culture myths” because “The belief that clothing or what someone what wearing ’causes’ rape is extremely damaging for survivors.” Please take a look at the link below.
If you have ever thought along these lines, please think again, logically break it down and you will soon see that this is a patriarchal rhetoric which only lends itself to rape culture, WE NEED CONSENT CULTURE!
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This piece of art and poetry is the first in a series of art pieces confronting the rhetoric that surrounds victims of sexual abuse, violence, assault and harassment.
At 15 years old I was told by most “you asked for it” when I was violently raped, also at 15 – when admitted to a psychiatric unit (after being raped); I was sexually assaulted twice by two different inpatients, I was told “you provoked that”.
I believed them all, I believed this was true, that I was to blame because my body was sinful, provocative, shameful or just fair game.
Doctors, nurses, parents, friends, they all said it.
It took so much time. growth and learning to eventually be where I am today; to be able to tell you all, that it’s not your fault, that it wasn’t mine either. That we are not to blame for another person taking advantage of us and violating us.
Consent was not taught in the 1980’s and 90’s. Socialised as girls we understood from an early age that society deemed our bodies to be “of service” to men, children, free labour…
I was told boys and men “only want one thing” and if I wanted a boy or eventually a husband, I had to give it to them, to keep them happy and myself relevant.
It is very easy for those unaffected to judge, they can continue their naive ideas that rape and sex are the same, that rapists and abusers are monsters – not “normal” everyday people. Never challenging the simplistic ideas we have carried through from a time when women were considered property everywhere and that their fathers owned them, eventually being given to their husbands.
No autonomy – just a body.
For anyone reading this, male, female, non-binary or trans. You didn’t ask for it – not literally, subtlety or subconsciously. You didn’t cause this, nor deserve it, this was done to you by a criminal who broke the law and broke every decent moral code there is. They did this. NOT YOU!
If you have any questions or feedback on this work, please leave a comment below by using the form.
Living in this world as a victim who survived sexual violence, assault and child molestation I have had to learn from an early age that the systems of power and society are against me due to my gender and mental illness. People speak of you with either a perception of doubt and contempt, a whispered shamefulness – or deem you as a broken shell of a human, with no use; it makes people uncomfortable. These people are the ones that if they read or see a depiction on film/TV similar to your situation, will dissect and find a way to blame the victim, even when it is a child, they do this in front of you – holding on tightly to the idea of the “Rape Myth“.
Perceptions of rape and any form of sexual assault or abuse are somewhat still judged by our prehistoric natures, along with murder – this need to defile and desecrate another human is sadly a behaviour which seems to be harder to evolve past. However even though there are sociobiological theories of rape which have been heavily criticised for assuming that only young attractive women are raped or that rape is motivated by desires and sexual needs only; is why this research needs to be considered but not seen as a completed study. We can not argue that rape has been used as a tool by our species. With high status and powerful males enslaving women as their playthings throughout history, with rape being used as a weapon of war to ethnically cleanse or to humiliate the opposing combatants. However the question which seems too complex to answer is whether this is something our species has innately, or is a behavioural component, which due to our long history of patriarchal power has never been challenged – until very recently, as more and more women are emancipated from their male family members.
So why is the “rape myth” still so prevalent today?
This month has been very triggering for most survivors, with Donald Trump admitting he has sexually assaulted women, with Brock Turner being released from his pitifully short sentence and with Ched Evans being acquitted after his family paid £50,000 for information from past lovers of the victim and then brought forward two ex partners and using the victims previous sexual behaviour against her in the case. These three high profile examples of how our world is determined to reinforce rape culture, show that power, privilege and using a woman’s sexuality to discredit her, are all achievable ways that men and boys who have never challenged these archaic ideas can “get away with it”. That they can be given the impression, it is their right, that their future is more important than a girl or woman’s or that women can’t be trusted especially if sexually active.
When I was raped at 15 by a boy in my school, many things were used against me – this was back in 1999 in England and even though I had a lot of evidence against him, still it was much more “prove she is not credible” rather than “prove he is guilty”. The fact I had fancied the boy was a big thing used against me, which as a child myself became confusing – when people repeated this to me again and again;
“but you fancied him, you wanted him to fancy you”?
These things were true but did not cancel out the fact he violently raped me. It was 1999 and it was as if people had not ever challenged the idea that:
1) rape has nothing to do with being attracted to someone
2) you can’t be raped by someone you fancy, which as an adult, now – I have no problem understanding. I blamed myself for years, thinking
“it was my fault, I fancied him, so he had the right”.
However the most disturbing of “victim blaming” I experienced was that of my mental illness and disability being used against me – to discredit me by suggesting my ability to understand what happened to me was impaired or that I had done this to myself. Having been severally sexually traumatised vaginally and anally which meant I had to have internal and external surgery on my genital areas, it was clear to the physicians and police examiners that this was from forced aggressive penetration. However this was not what my rapists Mother said – who spread the false information that I had in fact self harmed my genitals to frame and blame him. This spread like wild fire amongst the students at my school, teachers and parents and due to my unstable mental health displayed in school previously – many just assumed this must be true about “that crazy girl”.
There are still people from my school year who are addiment I lied and that I did it out of some sort of “crazy” spite or something to that effect. But one thing has always bothered me about these people, they seem to accept that he was convicted for grievous bodily harm – that he beat me and cut me open with his force and violence, however this to them is not rape or sexual assault, this is fine, because I was asking for it.
My rapist was not convicted of rape, the police told me that this was due to his age – as he was also 15 and the fact that they could not determine and prove a lack of consent (like with so many cases). So he was convicted of GBH and Unlawful Sex – he was put on the sex offenders register and was on a tag for 12 months, but this was still not enough regardless of the outcome for some. It did not matter that I was bruised, bleeding and emotionally broken ready to take my own life, to them I was a whore and an opportunist.
It took so long for me to accept my rape as rape – this was due to our culture, my upbringing and my age. Once able to detach the 15 year old girl from being the primary source of all my information on what happened to me, I was able to look at it with adult eyes, eyes which have now survived and lived.
It was only 2 years ago – having turned 30 and reaching the point that I had lived 15 years on from my assault, whilst doing intense reliving therapy for my CPTSD, that revisiting my memories voluntarily was possible – apposed to flash backs and intrusive thoughts. Through this new lens of awareness I saw 15 year old me held down (face down) crying into the sheets as the boy raped me or of myself choking from forced oral penetration, it was then and only then that all the other details fell away – what I was wearing, that I fancied him, that I had gone into the room voluntarily and that straight after it had happened I had told my friends we had just had sex, to fit in, as I did not understand what had happened to me. These details were not what happened to me, these details were from society’s ideas of girls and women – from a rhetoric that found me (the victim) more guilty than the perpetrator.
The facts are – I did not give consent and could not stop what happened to me due to fear and force. That until you are in a situation like this, a rape – that did not happen in a dark alley by a scary man, but one that happened by someone you knew, liked or loved, it is then you realise how we do ourselves as a species an injustice. We do not prepare girls and boys for the real dangers – we are not taught about consent and of how important this is. Instead as a girl you are taught you must prevent yourself from being raped or targeted by men, that you are the only one in control of this. Or that you must defend yourself by carrying a weapon or whistle, your told “scream out”, or you are told “cover up” don’t give men ideas or an invitation. Boys are then treated as if they are less responsible when it comes to sexual behaviour, that promiscuity is acceptable and even encouraged in an environment of toxic masculinity, with the idea a girl or woman needs to be “ruined” or “broken in”, a sense of entitlement is continued and facilitated. All the while placing all people who identify as male in one patriarchal predatory box , a box – which if male and you are the victim of rape, then this is not taken seriously, and is ridiculed or deemed to be a weakness, clamming “real men can’t be raped”.
Despite considerable research and publications in professional and popular journals concerning rape, such myths continue to persist in the minds of the masses.
We need to stop:
assuming that women and girls are more likely to lie about being raped than being raped. Of course false rape allegations exist, I have even witnessed one myself – however our culture reflects a problematic discourse when addressing this issue. Whichever stance is taken the girl or woman is either a liar, a slut or crazy. Here is a great article on this: He Said, She Said: The Mythical History of the False Rape Allegation
thinking women are “ASKING FOR IT”! This idea is ridiculously flawed and contradictory. If in fact “we” are asking for it, then this would mean we were asking for consensual sex or we invited a person to comment on how we look or behave. There is no clothing, age, background, ethnicity, disability or behaviour which lends to the idea “we” are “ASKING FOR IT”.
allowing predators to suggest that by having none consensual sex with an individual is doing them a favour as they are deemed not aesthetically conventional in their appearance or are disabled. Beauty and rape have no ties and cause this false idea that you can be too ugly to be raped. I was told this once by a horrible misogynist, who suggested I was too fat and ugly for rape victim. Disabled people are more likely to be taken advantage of as again I know too well. The same can be said about claiming that “you brought them into adulthood”, which is often used as a defence when women rape minors, especially if adolescent. Reinforced by a culture that will pat the boy on the back, for being taken advantage of by an older woman – but one that would react very differently to a girl who is under age, with an older man.
Thinking rape is about sex and sex alone. Rape is taking control of someone’s body and autonomy by force. It is not simply a person gets so overwhelmed by desire and can’t control themselves, it is so much more complicated and is never simply explained.
Promoting the “scorned woman” narrative, that women and girls get so enraged about being rejected by a man that their little minds overheat and conjure up allegations of rape and abuse for shits and giggles. This is a stereotype of women which has been depicted through history in all manner of literature and now film and TV. The fact that it is so widely believed is proof when you hear women accusing one another of such things. When research shows men are more likely to commit a violent crime after rejection in an intimate relationship. Please read this article: These 14 Women Were Brutally Attacked for Rejecting Men — Why Aren’t We Talking About It?
We need to look at rape as… well just that – RAPE!
People need to understand the fundamental differences between rape and sex and the need for children to be taught about consent couldn’t be more evident, along with the rest of sex education needing to be taught younger and more liberally. But how can you make a difference, simple check your attitudes and beliefs about what you have read and ask yourself:
Have you ever reinforced the rape myth?
If you are a victim who survived sexual violence, rape assault or abuse and wish to get more advice or support here are some helpful links:
Since my first awareness of inhabiting this body,
my knowledge was somewhat confused,
feeling detached – sensations running through me,
seemingly rational when your anatomy is used,
with unwanted attention and unwanted affection,
with bruises and cuts – now an absentee,
apparently this carcass is a gift,
it feels removed – adrift,
but this body survived.
Poetry and Art By Charlotte Farhan
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They – the predators, always in plane sight,
some think they emerge from shadows,
dancing with the devil in the moonlight,
alas most are under one’s nose,
most are known to you or I,
our Fathers, Brothers, partners, class mates,
hard for others to identify,
when others finally see – they deprecate.
They pretend to love you,
but they will push you down to dominate,
negating, hostile, broody – but we make do,
there is no other option with this mental state,
the predatory mind is here – locked in taboo,
memories are tombstones left to desecrate,
no open fields here – to run through,
left dangling on a hook like live bait.
Poetry and art by Charlotte Farhan, for any further details please fill in the form below…
There is something which disturbs my mind every day, which no one knows to look at me – no one suspects that throughout my day I have to endure pain and flashbacks due to the metallic, heart pumped liquid that flows through our veins. When I was violently raped at 15 years old the injuries suffered were severe. Having to have vaginal and anal surgery was another violation but medically necessary.
Knowing I had been damaged severely during the rape and straight after, never having experienced such pain, it felt like being ripped open; however as a young girl who wanted to fit in with her friends, assuming this was “normal” and how sex was for girls, my immediate reaction was confusion and relief it was over. Even though my mind would flash with intense warnings to what had just occurred, such as the images of me faced down unable to breath, crying silently in agony as he split me open, or of me on my back paralysed as I was held down and forcibly penetrated and the image of being gagged from oral rape with no air supply and fearing for my life. However shock and dissociation kicked in, in the immediate hours after, wanting to be loved and not understanding what had happened led me to ignore the sever pain and remain silent.
It was not until the following morning that the realisation that my entire world had changed; waking up in a pool of blood and in agony was the beginning of the end. Knowing this was not menstrual blood, the shock of it all was still so incomprehensible – writing this now I understand this better, but then as a child in 1999, it was not clear what had happened to me. Still then – thinking that this was my fault and that because my other friends had not experienced this that it must be because I was a freak of nature. Did I do it wrong?
Upon telling my friends Mother (who I was staying with), what had happened and that I was bleeding heavily from both ends, her reaction was simply; “what did he do to you”? This sentence which still rings in my ears was the first indication that something wrong had happened to me and it was not all in my head.
The following days were excruciating, physically and emotionally, it took a few days before I was taken to a safe house, where my statement was taken and a medical examination was held with a rape kit. The doctor and nurse were horrified by my injuries and could not believe I had been walking around like this for days. Then they broke the news to me that I would have to have surgery and a lot of stitches – vaginally and anally. When I came out of the examination room, my Mother looked at me and she said the same thing “what did he do to you”? There were no answers, just a word which people -the adults kept saying; rape!
When people heard that this had happened to me most did not believe me, the reason being that at the age of 11 my mental illness had come to the surface, as a self harmer and a child who had tried to kill herself several times before 15, people treated me like a demented child who made things up for attention. The Mother of the boy who raped me even went as far as to suggest to the police and school that the sever wounds suffered, were actually done by me and not from vaginal and anal forced penetration, saying I had deliberately self harmed my genitals to accuse him of rape? Obviously this woman was not a fan of Occam’s razor.
The surgery was at Winchester hospital and it was a sunny day in mid June, I remember this, the memory of laying on the stretcher going into the operating theatre with beams of light dancing over me as we passed a corridor of windows. All I could see was myself as from above, having dissociated and experiencing psychosis my mind was detached. Another violation was happening, another medical necessity, defiling me once again.
When awoken from surgery, the first sounds which were audible to me, were my own screams – yelling at the top of my lungs, “this was not supposed to happen, he was supposed to love me”. It didn’t feel like the noise was coming from me, it sounded like it was coming from a little girl trapped somewhere, who I desperately wanted to find and rescue. Still detached and now suicidal, with no energy and so much pain, the world seem to drift by and all that was important to me was death, ending it all. This is when I was put into the psychiatric adolescent unit in Epsom.
Today as a woman who has only recently accepted what happened to me at 15, the blood still haunts me. Suffering from C-PTSD the flash backs which come about can be so intense causing sever vaginal and anal pain, it strikes me like lightning and locks me in the terrifying moments which happened. There are also everyday things which cause these triggers to overwhelm me, such as the fact I have PCOS which causes me to bleed a lot and often, every time I see blood – the violation and violence washes over me and drowns me in trauma induced psychosis. Another complication is that I can not have smear tests or any vaginal examinations, which puts me at great risk, especially as someone who has PCOS, as we are more likely to have cervical and ovarian cancer. Sex has also been an ordeal, throughout my late teens and twenties, not knowing when a flashback would occur and often happening during sex. Luckily with my husband through kindness and love I eventually was able to have sex without it being painful. Blood will always be the worst trigger for me, it even affects me having blood taken – which is essential as a diabetic. As well as having unexpected triggers, like when my husband recently cut his hand badly and blood spat everywhere – seeing little droplets all over the bathroom floor sent me into a psychotic state. Furthermore as I sit writing this – it has taken me weeks, as the need to step away and have breaks from this piece was required for my own sanity, it is overwhelming writing this and reading it back.
The reason for me sharing this with you is because the only way I can continue to survive is by helping to create change for others. My life started with sexual abuse in my own home (at 4 years old by a family member), which is then where I was raped at 15 at an overnight party by a boy in my year who was also only 15 years old. There is so much more to be told, however this piece is the most open I have been before, this is scary but it is necessary and having survived far worse than revealing this to you, this can only make me stronger. When I close my eyes at night the colour red is all I see, it has never left me in over 16 years, it remains my biggest trigger, however the more we “the survivors” share the more awareness is created and hopefully this will happen less or be dealt with better if it does.
This painting has been one of the most revealing and allowed me to confront my own blood. It is part of my ongoing collection: