I've mentioned a few times that I've been assaulted on a bus a few months ago, and that when I do speak up about it I'm faced with a lot of victim-blaming bullshit. What I did not talk about was the fact that although I haven't just kept it to myself, I have not breathed a word of it to anyone in my family.
I haven't told my Grandmother because she worries enough about my taking the bus on my own, no matter what time of day.
I didn't tell my Grandfather because I didn't want him trying to buy me a car.
I didn't tell my Father because I knew it would make him sad, and even more frustrated that he had to move so far away. Also see above about car buying.
I didn't tell my Mother because I didn't trust her not to say something like "You KNOW you're not supposed to sit at the back of the bus when you're alone! You KNOW you should only ever sit at the front of the bus near the driver!" and descend into the worst victim blaming I would have faced yet.
It isn't that my Mother is malicious or would have thought I "had it coming"; it's that she thinks that it's possible to avoid these sorts of things, if only you follow these magic rules ("never go out alone" is the gist of it) and her magic rules largely reflect a deep misunderstanding about sexual assault and rape, and what actually motivates it. This mentality is sadly common, and I know it is common based on all the victim-blaming I have received when I've talked about it.
I understand the appeal of the just world fallacy. The world makes sense, and good actions net good rewards while bad and careless actions bring in bad ones. It also helps flatten and simplify the world so it can be explained to children. You should do good things so good things happen to you! If you do bad things the universe will come and punish you! You, and your loved ones, can be protected if you are constantly vigilant! When it comes to things like "look both ways before crossing the street" and practicing safe sex, these rules work better, but nothing is certain. This fallacy is as toxic as it is commonly believed. Not just because it is, often at its root, what causes victim-blaming, but because we internalize it. I almost got suckered into the cycle. I brought my assault upon myself, what, by being a woman and alone and sitting at the back of the bus and all. If I had been more careful I'd have been fine! I then promptly realized this was total bullshit, but it's a tempting thing, and it's one that makes it so much harder to heal. If you believe your assault is your fault, you get angry not at your attacker, or even the situation, but at yourself.
Like all fallacies, it's one that isn't terribly difficult to see through once you think about it, but we don't want to think about that one, because it's (seemingly) safe and comfortable. I don't know about you, but I think my imagined safety and comfort aren't worth maintaining a lie at the cost of other people's suffering and mental health. I don't think it's worth giving a culture that thinks it is on women to not get raped and not on men to not rape more power to perpetuate that belief.
Sadly the world is not a logical or sensible place. Bad things just happen, and no matter how careful a person is, it could happen to anyone. So next time you hear someone lament the cruelties the world has brought upon them and you find yourself about to tell them what they did to get there, think about it a little longer and harder first.*
*Yes, there are times when people bring shit upon themselves. Blow all your money on porn and candy so you went into debt? Sorry, that's all on you.