July 2, 2015 | by Kayla St. Onge and Jonathan Diener

We live in a world with sobering statistics on sexual abuse. One out of every six American women have been victims of rape. 68% of these rapes are never reported to police, and only two percent of rapists will even see a day in prison. It’s hard to have a rational response to these numbers—they’re despicable. There is clearly a problem going unaddressed, and a huge part of that is because of victim blaming.

The idea of “blaming the victim” has its roots in racism and the mistreatment of the African American community. It first appeared in the book Blaming the Victim, by William Ryan. The term was quickly co-opted by victims of violent crime, especially in cases of sexual assault. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but the idea is that the victim of a crime or oppression is somehow responsible for what happened to them.

You can wade into any internet forum where allegations of sexual abuse are brought up, and likely the first thing you will see is vitriolic doubt and aggression towards the victims. This is particularly true in the music scene—take a look at what happened with the girls who accused Jake McElfresh of Front Porch Step, and more recently, the way the woman who accused Ronnie Radke has been dealt with. From being called liars and attention seekers to outright being threatened, it’s no wonder why most assaults go unreported.

Even the police are in on the conspiracy—common questions rape victims will be asked if they report are “What were you wearing?”; “What were you drinking?”; “Did you smile at him?” From the start, the victims are on trial, and after being faced with such oblique distaste and disinterest, most of them choose not to press charges. The process of trying to bring your abuser to justice is long, exhausting, and usually unsatisfying. That’s why it’s important that we believe victims when they come forward. Our belief may be the only shred of justice they receive.

In our scene, the best thing we can do is support those brave enough to come forward. Because it is abundantly clear that the big players in our scene will not. Jake McElfresh is back on Warped Tour, complaints fall of Kevin Lyman’s deaf ears, Ronnie Radke has his supporters at Alternative Press, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Those are only a few highlights of everything that’s happening in this scene. It’s hard not to feel discouraged. We must continue to use our voices to raise up those who use whatever platforms available to them to speak out. The only way to make a change is, as always, to stick together and be critical of those in charge instead of the people hurt by the system.

—Kayla St. Onge

Victim blaming is a huge issue, because it is also the easiest way to distract and even deflect accusations onto your accusers. It’s simple manipulation. Don’t blame me because that person was asking for it, or that person is a liar. Depending on your star power or status, it’s usually a case of whoever has the biggest following can get away with the most.

I unfortunately have heard hundreds of stories about some pretty terrible people who happen to be key players in the music scene and I still watch them get rewarded with success. Sure you can be talented, but at what point do people look deeper and see others for what they truly are? When they do find out? Do they just shut off the alarm system in the brain and continue to support because it’s easy? Is caring too challenging?

Well, it’s harder to deal with than we all think. Master manipulators can spin your own words around and actually make you feel guilty for trying to stand up for yourself. Even worse, they can rally others to overthrow your cause. In some situations there really isn’t an easy solution or outcome to whether sexual assault has occurred. You have to use critical thinking, your best judgement and a lot of patience. Again, think before you act. The best way to fight is by knowing everything beforehand and making a logical argument that causes dialogue.

Reading apology letters has also been very trying. I understand business is business, but people always have a choice, and instead of an emotionless statement saying you’re misunderstood (meaning everyone else is to blame for not getting you) or things are blown out of proportion (so you’ve done something wrong, but it’s not THAT bad), that’s when there are some serious issues. Of course people will be pissed off. Whether or not you did something wrong, apologize because it was brought up in the first place. Don’t make it a pity party for yourself. Take the responsible steps to bettering yourself and be open to conversation. Therapy and a lot of other good resources are out there.

Most importantly, if you were one of the people called out maybe it’s time to take some time off. Don’t hate the people because they shunned you, learn to understand that you’ve done something to cause this, whether you believe it or not. The accusation will be connected to you for a while and you have to understand that. Finally with help from the Internet and a lot of outspoken people, actions have consequences.

—Jonathan Diener

(h/t PropertyofZack for the photo)