Letter – Don’t stigmatize assault victims

Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

As an individual new to Virginia and as a psychologist, I was much relieved to read Caitlin McNiece’s response (“Don’t blame the victim, Jan. 17) to the letter to the editor (“How to tell a man ‘no,’ ” Jan. 10) regarding a local politician’s arrest after allegedly groping a woman.

It is the just-say-no attitude, that a woman’s experience is either overly dramatic, or worse, her fault, that keeps girls and women from speaking up when violated. As a consequence, males continue to assault females both verbally and physically across this country’s high schools and colleges and workplaces in large and small ways. And females continue to minimize their own  experience or blame themselves rather than “cause trouble” for the offending male. 

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Women pay a price for this strategy: feeling secret shame that they carry forever. And the male in question? His behavior doesn’t change.

No one would deny that there are serious problems in our world that are outside our control, access to internet porn being the most obvious. For boys and girls alike, it is their first introduction to sexuality, because they ARE going to encounter it. Rather than tell children, “Don’t watch porn,” it is now necessary to educate our children with  a brave conversation: “In case you end up seeing pornography, this is not how women deserve to be treated nor how men should see them.”

This struggle is now at the very heart of our politics: Do you dismiss Jean Carroll as a drama queen or a liar so that you can support Donald Trump? Or do you allow the victim to be heard?

Christine Musello