There is a disturbing trend within the American teenage population of rape victim blame and bullying. The ability of a rape victim, male or female, to overcome the trauma they have suffered rests in their openness about the crime. Reporting rape is the single most influential way to bring the rapist to justice and to start the healing process. The very real threat of victim blame and bullying among teenagers keeps these victims from saying even one word about the traumas they have experienced. Keeping silent is often easier than enduring the ridicule of peers, or worse, the disbelief and judgment of parents and other trusted adults.
Teenagers use blame and bullying as a coping mechanism for their own shock at the situation. Protecting the rapist effectively allows them to deny that danger is present. If they deny that rape happened, then they cannot become victims either. Ganging up on a victim of rape is not as scary as ganging up on the rapist, because that person could hurt them. In addition, acknowledging the fact that a classmate or peer raped someone is very scary and difficult. A victim is already a victim and more vulnerable to victimization. Eliminating the victim from their society allows them to forget it happened, replacing the status quo.
Physical, verbal and cyber bullying may happen without a parent or teacher knowing. The victim of rape is subjected to common rape myths such as lying about the rape in order to get attention, saying yes to sex and now regretting it, or emotional/psychological instability. Teenagers can really be quite cruel towards one another. Teenage girls are called skanks, whores or things are thrown at them, and food dumped on them, all for trying to bring justice to a rapist. Some aspects of bullying even push the victim towards suicide with notes and cyber messages. One girl, who was raped at the age of sixteen, found a note in her locker with a systematic plan of how she should kill herself. All of these injustices are preventable, but the actions must begin before rape is even a threat to victimize anyone.
Teenagers are going to be cruel; rapists are going to get away with their crimes. These two sad truths will never change unless everyone involved begins taking responsibility for their actions. The reality of rapists stepping forward and confessing is slim to none. Turning the massive peer pressure of victim blame onto the real criminals would be a positive step. Education on rape violence is already stressed in schools; turning more attention on that will not achieve these goals. Teenagers should understand that bullying the victim is admitting their own victimization. Allowing themselves to feel so insecure that they must lash out against a rape victim is detrimental to everyone. A peer community that is positive will enfold the victim and outcast the criminal, heeling from the inside out through acceptance. Teaching respect of self and others at a young age will prevent rape from ever happening. Teaching acceptance of cruel reality will foster a positive peer body and, through that, bullying will diminish.