In the UK, one in four women will experience domestic abuse and one in five sexual assault during their lifetime according to the Home Office, while two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone, according to Refuge. It means that amongst the women you know, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re probably in contact with a survivor of violence.

The unfolding events around Sarah Everard’s disappearance have sparked fierce discussions about women’s safety on social media, with vigils planned and thousands of women sharing their experiences on social media.

Victim blaming is a response to a crime that suggests the victim, rather than the perpetrator, bears responsibility for the assault. Not only does this type of language unhelpfully throw guilt on people going through trauma, it also distracts from important conversations we need to have about how we can make society safer for women.


Here are just a few things I am tired of hearing in the wake of assault…


1. ‘You shouldn’t have been out late’

However helpful you think you’re being, these kinds of comments suggest a victim is partly responsible for the harm that befell them, because they were outside at a certain time of night, or walked a ‘dangerous’ route.

Putting a curfew on women instead of addressing why it is they cannot walk home safely isn’t the answer. Plus, assault can happen at any time – whether it’s dark outside or not.


2. ‘You shouldn’t have been drinking’

This assessment can make someone feel ashamed or guilty about what happened to them, as though it’s their fault for not being clear-headed enough to avoid or outsmart danger. While it’s true we should all try to drink alcohol responsibly, having a drink doesn’t mean a person is any more to blame for being targeted by an assailant.


3. ‘You’re lucky it wasn’t worse’

Even in 2021, people still feel the need to differentiate between acts of violence or aggression that are ‘bad’ and those that ‘could be worse’.

This misguided comment can have a silencing effect on victims, and they may even avoid reporting an incident, because they don’t feel their friends and family are taking it seriously. They may even feel like they won’t be believed.

We Are Voice:

4. ‘That will teach you not to be such an easy target’

No one asks to be attacked or taken advantage of, and being a nice or friendly person doesn’t make you responsible for what happened. Flirting or previous encounters with an attacker, where you previously consented, doesn’t make it OK either.


5. ‘Why were you wearing that?’

Victims of assault are often wrongfully accused of inviting an attack due to what they were wearing. Picking apart someone’s appearance suggests a victim was ‘asking for trouble’ by wearing certain items of clothing.

Remember that fashion or make-up choices, no matter how ‘provocative’ you perceive them to be, shouldn’t incite danger.


6. ‘You should have had a chaperone’

It’s an impossible standard to expect women to have a person with them at all times to keep them safe. Let’s stop analysing women’s behaviour and telling them how they can minimise their risk of attack, and instead look at how we can change male behaviour so women can confidently walk the streets alone.


7. ‘You should have taken a taxi’

Uber released its first ever safety report in 2019, which detailed 5,981 instances of reported sexual assault in the US alone. While most taxi rides are, of course, completely safe, it’s understandable that women might feel more at risk getting into a car with someone they don’t know.


8. ‘I do that walk all the time and I’m fine’

Telling a victim you’ve walked the same route but not encountered the same fate can be incredibly damaging to someone going through trauma.

The reason we blame the victim often comes from our need to believe the world is a fair, safe and just place. The startling fact is that violence is often random and unjust, and when it comes to assault, it is never the victim’s fault.