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Jakarta Post

Persistent victim blaming in society shows how sick we are

  • Evi Mariani
    Evi Mariani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 8, 2019   /   09:12 am
Persistent victim blaming in society shows how sick we are Victim blaming illustration. (Shutterstock/Doidam 10)

The last week of 2018 and the first week of 2019 have shown that victim blaming in Indonesia is such a daily occurrence that most people don’t see it as a problem because it’s common. The amount of victim blaming shows our society is sick.

Even progressive people — men and women — with the commitment to eradicate violence against women sometimes do not see it as victim blaming. We need a wake-up call to stop it and say it is wrong when we see it.

In the news is a soap opera star, identified only as VA, who is accused of prostitution. The police arrested her on Jan. 5 in Surabaya. The media reported that they took some other people to the police station along with VA: another TV star, four witnesses, two managers and one suspect allegedly involved in an electronic transaction for prostitution. 

Soon, pictures of VA were splashed on news sites. Netizens went abuzz, commenting on social media about the alleged “rates” while denigrating VA. There was no picture of a man who did the transaction with VA. 

The same happened with a TV star, identified only as NM, in 2015. Her pictures were everywhere and people commented on the high rates, some insinuating she was charging too much. No one questions the d**khead who was brainless enough to pay that amount of money for sex. 

In NM’s case, the police did not charge her with anything, but they certainly made sure NM faced social stigma and punishment. In VA’s case, the police said they would open the possibility of making VA a suspect, but not the man, a businessman, because they could not find any regulation to charge him with. Even if the police decide to release VA, they already made sure she will get social punishment.

Earlier, an employee of the Workers Social Security Agency’s (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) supervisory board, identified only as RA, told the media she had been raped by her then-boss. She was the secretary or personal assistant to the boss when the alleged assaults happened. 

Some people commented that RA chose a job as a secretary or personal assistant to a man, thus it was not surprising that her boss used her for sex. 

Were they saying that if a woman applies for a job as a secretary at a respectable organization like the supervisory board of BPJS Ketenagakerjaan, she should be prepared to be assaulted? And if that happens she only has herself to blame?

Also last month, a lawyer representing a student of Gadjah Mada University told the media that his client, accused of sexually assaulting another student, did kiss and do “other stuff” to the victim, but he said it was consensual, adding that the woman “came to his place” and not the other way around. Did the lawyer mean that if a woman goes to a man’s place, she should expect to be assaulted and if that happens she only has herself to blame?

On Dec. 6, the Jakarta Police arrested a man accused of killing a woman in an apartment in Central Jakarta. The police told the media, and the media picked up the police’s information as it was: the man killed her because he was upset at the woman who refused his love and later spat on him. 

A media outlet even tried to interview a parking attendant at the apartment, who confirmed that indeed the female victim was “snappish”. Another report said the suspect was a former security guard at the apartment who was fired last year. Clearly, even without this bit of information, the suspect is the problem, not the victim.

The police did not even frame the case as one of stalking despite clues about this. The man told the police he told the victim he loved her, she said no and called him disgusting on occasions when he “bumped into” her. The last time he “bumped into” her was when he was no longer a security guard there, he said he was “friendly and smiled at her”; that she spat on him and then he killed her.

She lived alone, no one protected her when this man harassed her several times and now when she’s dead, people blame her because she was unfriendly to the man who kept bumping into her and being “friendly” to her. 

In Indonesia, when a man forces his attention on a woman, people won’t call it stalking, let alone a crime. People would call the guy “persistent”, in a positive way, and society believes the woman would finally relent to the victory of the persistent man. What a beautiful love story. It’s not.

All these victim blaming comments and attitudes make me believe that our society is sick and needs urgent cure. If we regard such comments and perspective as common and acceptable, more women will become victims of violence, get the blame, while the male perpetrators will be embraced by society as a victim of a snappish woman, a woman who charges too much, a woman who dares to knock on the man’s door and a woman who dares enough to earn a respectable living as a secretary.