Lady Gaga made news yet again, this time by publicly sharing during the Oscars that she was raped at age 19. Yes, she set off shock waves around the world, not just because she shared something so intimate, but because she challenged each of us to consider how we talk about rape in our own lives.
One of the heartbreaks about being a woman is that it feels like we are blamed by society for everything that happens to us, and sexual assault is no different.
But if you wouldn’t blame Lady Gaga for being raped, why would you blame yourself, or your friends?
Why Do You Blame Women . . . and Maybe Even Yourself?
When you find yourself more responsible than the other person for virtually everything that happens to you, including rape and sexual assault, you are tapping into a conditioned response. Internalization of the continuous media messages as well as all of our family messages leads to the creation of our own negative self-talk, which I’ve named toxic girly thoughts.
Why have a name for this? So we can first identify when we are blaming ourselves for all the woes that come our way and then stop thinking this way!
What You Can Do
This tendency to “blame the victim” needs to be addressed on so many levels. This is why I was thrilled to read Jes Skolnik’s blog on Medium.com: “some guidelines for music/entertainment writers writing about sexual assault [sic].”
Her clear guidelines for those in the entertainment industry also bears consideration for writers and bloggers everywhere, and they have relevance for all of us in how we discuss rape and sexual assault. Here’s a summary:
- Be careful with your language. If there is alleged violence, do not refer to it using the same terminology as consensual sex. This reinforces the pervasive social myth that sexual violence is “sex gone wrong” rather than specific and contextualized violence. . . .
- Be clear about your own biases. . . .
- FACT CHECK EVERYTHING. . . .
- Do not write a story without even attempting to contact the person on the other side of the allegations. . . .
- Do not ever, everpressure someone to tell their sexual assault story to you. If they don’t want to talk, let them go. . . .
- Be careful about reporting allegations (from either side) as indisputable fact. . . .
One way to stop the perpetuation of toxic girly thoughts is for us to stop doing to ourselves—and to other woman—what society does to us.
Remember, you’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my two latest books, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power and The Resilient Woman: Mastering The 7 Steps to Personal Power.
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.