Society Magazine

Who Is A “Deserving” Victim?

Posted on the 26 February 2015 by Juliez

My right to safety and bodily integrity were robbed the night I was drugged. I, as well as three other female students at my law school, were drugged at three different house parties. No one attempted to sexually assault me or even asked me to go home with them, so I have no idea who my attacker(s) is. This has put me on high alert. I feel unsafe attending classes, monitor every law student that enters a bar, and have occasional night terrors.

I find this situation unacceptable and don’t want any woman to experience it in the future, so I have decided to speak out. Doing so, however, has proven to me that we still have a very narrow understanding of what it means to be a “victim” in this society. We hold victims to rigid standards and use those to determine whether or not they “deserve” credibility. It seems that because I have acted in ways that do not render me “deserving,” my community refuses to believe my claim.

For example, I was at a bar a few weeks ago when a fellow law student furiously approached my friends and told them that he couldn’t believe they were hanging out with me because I “depreciated the value of this institution.” The truth is that the perpetrator depreciated the school’s value when they made the conscious and intentional decision to drug four female law students without their consent. I became the target of fury because I was the only public target for people’s anger while the attacker(s) has the luxury of blending in with the rest of the student body.

This fury was not isolated to just one student, though. Since news spread that there are four survivors instead of one, students immediately began demanding that the other three come forward although they have no desire to. I alone am not credible enough to make this claim— especially because I have complained about other racist and insulting incidents to the administration in the past, such as when several male students told me, “Don’t make me pull a Ray Rice on you” or “Just Ray Riced ya” after simulating a pretend punch to my face during media coverage on that issue; when a racist White male peer asked me to leave this country because I’m an immigrant; and when some male law students made roofie jokes early last semester.

Because I complained about these incidents, apparently, I have lost credibility. The issue, it seems, is not that these horrifying incidents keep happening, but that I refuse to sweep them under the rug and accept them like everybody else. Therefore, every time I point out an issue, students react by saying “Here she goes again.”

The “deserving” victim would be entirely silent on gender-based issues until something bad happens to her. She would come forward, but not too much — just enough to inform some peers and student officials about her concern. She would then be grateful for whatever “solutions” they propose to help her.

The “deserving” victim must always be obedient and I am not obedient. I am not content to quietly raise this issue just for myself, and insist on pointing out that these attacks — which have been serial and patterned in nature as all have targeted female third year law students holding student leadership positions — amount to a hate crime. I truly believe my attacker(s) is someone who is motivated by the desire to hurt, intimidate and bully educated women who are trying to get to the top and I refuse to ignore this. In response, students routinely give me dirty looks, go silent when I enter classrooms and make snide comments.

This experience has led me to conclude that there needs to be a systematic re-vamping of how our culture understands and addresses gender-based violence. Administrations cannot prevent these crimes from occurring but they do have an inescapable duty to serve their students in a particular way when they do. Communities should not automatically assume that survivors are lying and they must get rid of the rigid standards by which we determine which survivors “deserve” to be believed.

I am taking steps with my own school and student body related to my specific situation, but ultimately I don’t want this happen to any other woman at any other school. Perhaps I will see justice, but until we change these things as an entire society, I’m sure injustices like the drugging I experienced will continue to happen — and that is unacceptable.

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