By: Dana Zillgitt, Regular Contributor
TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains discussion of sexual assault and may be a trigger for survivors of sexual assault/sexual violence.
There is no perfect sexual assault survivor. Nor is there a right way to respond to sexual violence and trauma. How often have we heard those words either in regards to our own stories or to others? It’s disgusting that we need the #theresnoperfectvictim hashtag but the responses it’s getting are astounding—both positive and negative. It’s finally creating the discussion of how we treat rape survivors in comparison to those charged with this heinous crime. And maybe one day soon, it’ll finally catch up.
Feminist activists Julie Zeilinger and Wagatwe Wanjuki started this Twitter phenomenon in part due to their own experiences and in part due to the immense scrutiny survivors face if they do report their attacks. And the responses in regards to the hashtag are phenomenal.
There are stories where the victim’s credibility are considered “perfect”—being beaten and left for dead by a complete stranger—and others where it’s not so credible—date rape or by a supposed friend, like in the case of activist, Emma Sulkowicz, who reported the former instead of the latter. And it’s terrible how often this is the case for survivors. Many are often afraid that their credibility as the attacked is in question more so than the fact that they were attacked by a monster with often lasting effects.
All in all, while it’s gross that we’re still treating the victims like the perpetrators, it’s crucial that we have this conversation. To shed light on what needs to be changed, how we can change it, and the precise rationale as to why it needs to be down.
It’s inspiring that in times of need, social media and hashtags can really create discussion on both sides of the spectrum and bring a spotlight on often vulnerable parties. Because even though there is no perfect time to discuss such violence, there is still no perfect victim.
Do you think that hashtags like #theresnoperfectvictim actually can spur social change? Do you take part in hashtag activism?
Dana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.