I’ve been tweeting all morning about #rapeculture & #abuseculture, and someone asked me what I meant when I referred to Strong People Myths. I think some/most of us are familiar with the Strong Black Woman Trope right? Right. For those that are unfamiliar with it, it can best be summed up as the idea that black women are so strong they don’t need help, protection, care, or concern. It’s a racialized super human idea that leaves little to no room for real black women with real problems. That myth contributes to black women experiencing higher than average domestic violence rates, & an increased rate of sexual assaults. It is literally killing black women, but it persists & is often referenced as a positive thing despite it denying the basic humanity of black women.
Similar myths flourish inside rape culture & abuse culture and contribute to ideas like “Men can’t be raped”, “It’s her fault for staying with him after he hit her”, “She/he/they didn’t fight back so they must have wanted it” or (and this one is always guaranteed to make me want to throw things), “I would never be in that position” during discussions of domestic violence or rape. The idea that strong people are safe people is perpetuated relentlessly throughout our culture & it ignores not only the reality that anyone can be victimized, but also that it takes strength to survive. It feeds into external & internal victim blaming when people insist that only the weak can be prey. The One True Way To Be Strong So You Are Safe idea is comforting right up until it backfires on people who are victimized.
Meanwhile rapists & abusers have a free pass to continue their behavior since we propagate this idea that only the strong deserve to survive. They face no/limited consequences, get society to do the dirty work of A) blaming the victim for not being stronger & getting the victim to self blame, all while seeking out new victims. It’s easy to say people should have known better before you think about the fact that rapists & abusers don’t usually advertise their intent. Instead they rely on wit, charm, & social pressure to help them find, isolate, & assault (sometime repeatedly) their victims. Then when victims seek help, they know their victims will run right into the Strong People Don’t Get Hurt Myths. Instant insulation from prosecution or social repercussions with the added bonus that the victim will forever doubt themselves!
It’s a sickening set of tropes, and yet it is popular & often lauded as though eternal strength is a reasonable or logical expectation of human beings. It’s not of course, and yes, abusers & rapists are not mutually exclusive or gender specific roles. But they are things that humans do to other humans. That’s it. Every human has needs, desires, wants that they are trying to have met. And everyone is vulnerable to harm whether it be from a stranger or a partner. To pretend that people can be (or should be) omniscient, or that they can’t ever be overpowered is to deny the humanity of survivors. It’s bad enough that people will be assaulted, but to have society continue the victimization is simply ridiculous and detrimental to everyone.