How can we still be blaming the victim?

It is hard to adequately describe the feeling that descended upon our newsroom when Tasmania Police released information about two alleged sexual assaults at the Falls Festival at Marion Bay. 

In the first six weeks of 2017 The Examiner ran a campaign titled Hands Off. 

We did not want to just send the message that sexual assault will not be tolerated, we aimed to investigate the underlying issues.

To be able to initiate change in perpetrators, we questioned why they do it. 

We asked what were the factors that contributed to a world view where women are sexual objects, there for enjoyment and entertainment regardless of whether consent is given. 

Months later stories of sexual harassment and assault were being talked about more widely.

The first accusation against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates, not just in the United States but across the globe.

Women have bravely shared their stories, their personal horrors, their pain.

Yet still, on the final day of the year, social media has highlighted how much work is still to be done.

Some offered critical descriptions of those who attended the Falls Festival.

Others called for the festival to be cancelled.

Another simply asked “Are you shocked?”

We have a simple answer to that. Yes.

Blaming the victim is still a massive issue instead of looking at the perpetrator as responsible, according to sexual assault support service providers across Tasmania.

SASS chief executive Jill Maxwell makes the classic comparison based on a comedy sketch by the BBC.

A man, dressed in an expensive business suit and using an expensive phone, is mugged.

In the sketch he is asked if the suit was what he was wearing when he was assaulted.

“You look quite provocatively wealthy … it’s just a bit of an invitation,” he is told following the incident.

How is sexual assault any different? 

Both men and women have a right live without being violated.

We have the right to go to music festivals.

We have the right to wear what we want to wear.

We have the right to be shocked.

And let’s hope that one day the message gets through – keep your hands off.