Of being free in a victim blaming society

As much as Merdeka Day (Malaysia’s National Day) is a cause for celebration, today I lament at how there exists among the Malaysian internet population, speculative and spiteful individuals that continue to perpetuate slut-shaming/victim-blaming. The basis of today’s post is regarding an Australian woman’s claim of sexual assault on a Malaysian Airlines flight. I’m not going to explain the article, but click the (two) links above, from a Malaysian newspaper and an Australian newspaper.

I first heard about this incident when a family friend posted the article up where it attracted comments that I deemed to be victim-blaming. I commented as such and the said family friend commended me on my argument, so I moved on. After that my mom linked me to this blog which albeit is written in poor English, the popularity of this blog has allowed the post to garner 351 comments, which is why I have chosen to engage with it.

Let’s begin with how the author has chosen to head his blog post with a screenshot of the victim’s Instagram photo (expertly chose the one where she is naked) and the caption ‘profiteering from misconduct’. First of all I hate how keyboard warriors love to make assumptions based on nothing. All we and anyone else (besides the people involved) knows is what the media tells us, and there has been no conclusive information to confirm that she was indeed ‘profiteering’. Also if misconduct truly happened then she isn’t making a profit, so the title makes no sense. It’s actually the opposite as she’s trying to recover a loss because of the damage from the sexual assault.

Now onto the photo, which leads to what seems to be the author’s only evidence that she was lying about the rape: her Instagram account.

Searches shown that Bushney is a person of dubious morality. An Instagram believed to be hers, shows that she is someone who is willing to share her lewd photos in public domain.

How does posting naked pictures of oneself illustrate ‘dubious morality’? Who is she hurting? What precious morals of yours is she violating? . Equating nude photos to be a sign of moral degradation is slut-shaming and it is wrong, her freedom to express as much or as little of herself is her prerogative. And even if posting nudes somehow portrays her lack of morals, it’s completely irrelevant as you can’t make the leap that an exhibitionist  is also definitely a liar.

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It is also funny if Bushney couldn’t cry for help when she was onboard, that she is courageous enough to appear on Australian national TV to tell her story.

No it isn’t funny. Nothing about rape is funny. This is an excerpt of what I wrote on Facebook:

No one can possibly understand what it feels like to be sexually harassed/assaulted unless they have been in that position. The onus is not on the victim to ‘do something’ but on people to not behave the way this perpetrator has. Saying she encouraged it, is victim shaming and it is precisely the reason why due process is so difficult. So few victims come forward to admit to rape, because they feel ashamed of what happened even when it’s not their fault, because of accusations like this from the public, because they are in denial that something so vile has happened to them.

Not only is it incredulous that people are questioning why she didn’t cry out for help, as though because she didn’t it is automatically her fault, but also assuming that she has a major role in what is publicised on national TV. In any case consider that she was terribly afraid while on the plane, isn’t a commendable thing that she is now courageous enough to call him out on the assault? If you found out a relative or a friend of yours was raped, would you not encourage them to report it, to announce it to the world as much as possible because rapists are the scourge of humanity and should not get away with it? This is precisely why so few victims come forward to admit to rape, because they feel ashamed of what happened even when it’s not their fault, because of accusations like this from the public, because they are in denial that something so vile has happened to them.

The author can’t stop harping on about her Instagram account, and starts saying at the end that the fact she deleted all her Instagram photos is proof that “Laura Bushney isn’t a credible person”. I have nothing more to say to these unfounded claims. Here are more unsavoury comments from the post.

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If you watch the video on the SMH website, it looks like this was happening in the dark, as usually flights will turn their lights off for a few hours so that passengers can get to sleep. So it’s probably quite easy for other passengers to not notice, even if they weren’t sleeping as you can’t really see anything. Again I don’t think it’s really relevant why she still chose to fly with Malaysian Airlines despite her fears. It appears these commenters are taking giant quantum leaps of, Why is she flying MAS – Must be making up fear of flying with MAS – Rape is her fault.

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Yes, because only pretty women get raped. And also, how good looking you are influences whether you lie about your sexual assault experience or not /endsarcasm

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Bad Luck Brian. Says something somewhat poignant in comparison to all other comments, is called out for being childish.

It just blows my mind that so many people, in this case so many Malaysians, can be so wrong about rape. If it turns out she did lie then, yes, I will condemn her along with the rest of you for ruining the chief steward’s life, the life of his family, his marriage and, dragging his and MAS’s reputation through the mud. But as it stands now, that is not the case.  Regardless of whether she is doing it for attention or not (which at this stage is mere speculation) she did not ask to be touched, she did not ask for this to happen to her. So what if she didn’t resist? Even if she didn’t say no, she definitely did not say yes.

When I first read the blogpost last week, I chose to close and ignore it. It was only today, when I clicked again that I realised how much attention it had gotten, and how this misinformation may be disseminating hence this response. It wasn’t my intention to become overtly aggressive at the author or the commenters (instead of just at their viewpoints) but it appears that I have. I find it very hard to not take it personally as another fellow female who this could just as likely happen to.

Our country is another year older but so many of us aren’t getting any wiser. As it is sex education at school is scant at best, and for a national curriculum that makes Moral Studies a compulsory subject, we seem to be extremely off mark. I wrote this post because I am scared. Scared to eventually return to my country where if caught in a situation like this, my people will not stand up for me. Scared to think we’re raising a future that tells girls ‘Don’t get raped’ instead of telling boys to not rape. Reading this article doesn’t really leave me feeling like wanting to chant ‘Merdeka!’ on a day like today when I definitely don’t feel free.

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