I was recently having a conversation with someone on Bill Clinton’s comments about his scandal with Monica Lewinsky. For those who don’t know, the Clinton — Lewinsky scandal was one that sent waves throughout the political world of the 90s. It was a political sex scandal that involved, a 49-year-old, Bill Clinton and, a 22-year-old, Monica Lewinsky, a White House Intern at the time. The affair lasted from 1995 to 1997 and was uncovered in 1998. Recently, Former President Bill Clinton was asked if he owed Monica Lewinsky an apology. He said no.
Clinton’s belief that he didn’t owe Ms. Lewinsky an apology after destroying her name, struck me as odd. But it got me thinking, why was it only Monica Lewinsky’s name that was subsequently smeared in the aftermath of the scandal, after all, it takes two to tango; Mr. Clinton saw out the rest of his second term and left office with high ratings. Why was it only Ms. Lewinsky who was forced to live a life of isolation and public humiliation? I started thinking about victimization and how as a human race, whether we admit it or not, we are prone to blaming the victim.
According to the Oxford, Dictionary victimization is “the act of singling someone out for cruel or unjust treatment[.]” After the initial crime further stigmatization is known as secondary victimization. This is what I believe Ms. Lewinsky is living through. Some examples of victimization are:
- victim blaming
- questioning the authenticity of one’s narrative
- inappropriate post-assault behavior/language of medical personnel or organizations (usually seen in cases of rape)
Even though we believe that we are living in a ‘woke’ generation, this generation is much more socially aware than previous, there is still a certain stigma attached to people who have been sexually assaulted or harassed. I truly believe that organizations and movements such as Time’s Up and #MeToo are doing an excellent job in trying to alter the wiring in our brains when thinking of sexual assault victims.
In the past, if you were sexually assaulted you would try and act as if nothing happened. You were instructed by your family to keep quiet, lest you destroy the family name. If you were a victim you were essentially locked in a cupboard under the stairs. You couldn’t do anything about it and you, usually, had to maintain interaction with your assailant.
They are giving survivors of sexual assault a voice. No longer are you to be relegated to the side, now you speak with your head held high in the hopes that your courage may give strength to another. Celebrities from Oprah to Terry Crews have spoken on their sexual assault helping build a platform on which everyday people may stand on. These movements have successfully taken down serial offenders, one of which was Harvey Weinstein. This sparked an event known as the Weinstein effect (a topic for another post). There is no doubt that organizations such as these are making it easier for people to come forward, but victimization is still a very real issue.
During our conversation, we started discussing rape and sexual harassment. The person I was talking to said that while rape is sad and unfortunate if you put yourself in a compromising situation you only have yourself to blame. And that is what I believe the underlying problem is in our society. Yes, rape is bad, but if you put yourself in a situation where it can happen to you, then it must be your fault. Not only is this thinking wrong, but it is also insensitive and inhumane. This line of thought fails to see the people, who commit these acts, as vile human beings. While they portray the victim as the wrongdoer.
The Truth about victimization is that, whether you like it or not, it is something that many still have to endure. I believe Ms. Lewinsky has suffered and is still suffering, from secondary victimization. While we do live in a much more ‘woke’ society, the fact that so many still ask, ‘what was she wearing?’, after hearing a girl was raped is a testament of how far we still have to go human beings.