Kseniya from the foundation «Feminoteka» and Hanya from «Feminist Workshop» have recently held a live broadcast regarding important issues such as:
- victim blaming (culture of blaming people affected by violence);
- bringing perpetrators (rapists) to justice;
- social discrimination of those affected by sexual violence;
- sex ed problems in Ukraine (or, rather, its absence).
The broadcast may be viewed here:
This live broadcast was organized as part of the social campaign «Don’t blame! Support!» organized by the foundation «Feminoteka» during 16 days against gender-based violence. People affected by violence are often blamed for what was done to them. This culture may lead to serious repercussions for the victims, as it makes it harder to receive help and support. This problem is particularly relevant in the Ukrainian context. There are taboos surrounding the topic of sexuality. Oftentimes, people are embarrassed to speak up about sex and sexual violence. Afraid of bullying, they may keep silent about what happened to them.
It’s a common problem in Ukraine and worldwide. For instance, Brussels has hosted an exhibition telling the stories of sexual violence survivors by displaying their clothes.
«It’s a popular format for exhibitions. They were organized in Berlin, Amsterdam, and many other cities. What kind of clothes was displayed? Kids’ nightgowns, ordinary jeans, even a police uniform, meaning a person was raped at work. What is seductive about a kids’ nightgown? What is tempting about a ratty T-shirt? Nothing. The problem is the perpetrators and their gaze», Hanya adds.
Excerpt from the 2016 textbook communicating victim-blaming ideas. Source:
Another problem is the fact that what matters most to the perpetrators is not the clothes but the person. Perpetrators always choose the victim they deem weak or helpless. The criminals identify people who won’t fight back or get help. To prevent violence, we need to raise awareness and shift the perception of the victims of violence. We need to remember that the victims of violence are never to blame. Ideally, law-enforcement institutions need to focus on prevention, but realistically, Ukraine has issues with it, ranging from the biased attitude and outright mockery of policemen to pre-trial hardships.
«It is challenging to bring perpetrators to justice. First, you need to file a criminal complaint, as sexual offenses are classified as private charges. Even when a third party, say, a neighbor knows for sure that a person is being raped daily — they can’t simply file a complaint. It needs to be personally done by a person affected by violence, meaning it’s a matter of private charges. No criminal complaint from the victim — no case. Once you file a complaint, it needs to be registered. You may check it on the Unified Register of Pre-Trial Investigations. If your criminal complaint wasn’t registered, that’s a violation you may appeal. Later, during the pre-trial investigation, an interrogation will be held. Perpetrator and victim are called for the interrogation, and later, for the trial» — Hanya says.
During the court proceedings, evidence is crucial. The Unified State Register of Court Decisions has an abysmally small number of sexual offense cases where the victim’s body had no signs of physical abuse. They expect to see signs of physical abuse, signs of struggle, and witness testimonies. However, quite often this is not the case.
«We are mammals with three possible biological reactions: fight, flight, freeze. Some are not used to fighting, some may struggle with fleeing. The most common first reaction is freezing. Often rape is not as “open” as we may imagine it. Violence is predominantly made by people we already know. Statistics make it evident that violence is mostly perpetrated by friends, acquaintances, partners… in the case of minors, by the relatives, and we can’t simply ignore it», Hanya explains.
We need to understand that violence is a serious problem that may happen to everyone. We can’t keep quiet about violence, even when it’s perpetrated by someone we trust. To prevent it from happening in the future, we need to implement sex education and raise awareness on the prevention of violence.
It is worth noting that some steps have already been taken. In 2020 the Law of Ukraine “On Preventing and Combatting Domestic Violence” was passed. It provides for certain measures protecting victims’ rights. Still, to fully overcome the victim-blaming culture, we need to keep to work raising awareness of violence and ways to help the victims.
Remember: victims of violence are NEVER to blame. They deserve our solidarity and support, and not our accusations.