What were you wearing?
This question gets asked everywhere. It’s just a question, just words strung together to gain insight into a situation.
What were you wearing when you were complimented by the guy you’d been crushing on for months, you tell your girlfriends you finally wore that dress you thought you were too pale for.
What were you wearing when you won your first award? You say you wore a blazer, some killer heels and that skirt your mother scolded you for buying. You remember those moments because they’re amazing, rooted in your memory, forever reminding you that you’re alive, here, breathing.
But when someone asks, what were you wearing as you sit battered, numb and in utter shock with your hands folded neatly in your lap, after you were raped, well, those words turn into something you can’t wrap your mind around.
Because maybe if you didn’t wear that skirt, or that dress, or those bikinis, maybe, maybe you wouldn’t be here now, trying to recover, maybe you’d have escaped the torment which now awaits.
No. That’s not the case.
In the world today, there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world who were assaulted walking home from the park, walking home from the library, watching a movie with their boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife.
Of these cases, some were wearing provocative clothing, some were wearing nothing at all and some were wearing pyjamas or gym clothes.
There is no case, no situation in which, what were you wearing, is an acceptable question to try and justify the tumultuous and horrific actions of another person.
While the world continues to spin victim’s stories and allegations, home in on the real issue surrounding he said/he said, one constant remains: Rape culture.
We have come so far; where laws now stipulate that a husband can be accused of raping his wife, an attempted assault is still treated as seriously as a rape and we persecute peers rather than cover for them. However, we are still so far behind on protecting the victims and hearing their voices and this is so incredibly detrimental to the survivors out there and our society as a whole.
We still tell women, and men too, to watch their surroundings. We tell them to walk with a friend, to call someone, to stay away from parks after dark, to move away on a train carriage when you’re alone. But where in all of this, do we tell the men who stalk and prey, who thrive on the savagery, to stop raping?
Where do we tell them, stop looking for women walking in the park alone, where do we tell them to stop trying to hook up with an intoxicated girl, or that no means no.
We don’t, and here lies the problem.
Women, yes, in most cases, are going to be smaller weaker, less equipped to fight off a male assailant. So, we must, in good faith, protect ourselves because it’s left in our hands.
For fear of sounding resolute in the analysis that women will always be the victim, I’m simply playing by ear and reciting what has been and is, in the news.
And knowing this, is power. Power to stand up and move away, or power to say no, power to keep surviving and battling, power to know you’re not alone.
We’ve lost so many loved ones, so many sisters, wives, mothers and daughters, we’ve lost the ability to hug them on this earth and sometimes, we’ve lost them spiritually.
Because death, isn’t the only way in which someone can die.
We have to keep reiterating this, keep letting the women in your life know they’re not alone, they’re love, they’re safe. Because as the world progresses and digresses, we have to be vigilant now, more than ever.
As much as it hurts me to know that we must take these precautions, that we must be proactive, I still believe this is the way we will protect ourselves until the day we don’t have to anymore when the world is a good place and we can walk through the park at night taking in the pinpricks of dotted light in the sky, listen to the tranquil lake folding into the bank, instead of daunting padding of heavy footsteps behind us and wonder what will happen?
And for the record, I was wearing my school uniform.