Stigma are labels or descriptions used to distinguish people in order to make sure they are perceived differently to others. This characterisation may be visible or invisible, but it is always negative.
Women who speak out about what happened to them are often labelled negatively by their society, leading to social exclusion. This is a form of punishment and contrasts with the impunity generally enjoyed by perpetrators. In this way, the stigmatisation of survivors of sexualised violence serves to maintain patriarchal structures.
Rape: Women are blamed
There is almost no crime apart from rape where the male perpetrator’s guilt for his crime is attributed to the victim. Known as ‘victim blaming’, this can be direct or indirect:
- Myths are perpetuated, such as the idea that certain clothing provokes rape.
- Laws are passed: In some 20 countries, male rapists escape punishment if they marry the woman they committed the sexualised violence against. In Afghanistan, women are imprisoned after they are raped. These myths and laws serve to trivialise the violence which men commit against women and people whose gender identity and/or sexual orientation deviates from the heterosexual norm.