By Viktória Szekér, Hungary.
Edited by Jessica Sutton.
I have been leading a Hungarian organisation called ‘Not Targets’ against victim blaming for 3 years now, and mostly due to this commitment, I always feel a profound sense of guilt whenever I find myself blaming the victim. It’s not a clearly detectable tendency in my attitude, I don’t write inhuman comments under Facebook articles about rape and sexual harassment, neither do I question a friend, when they open up about a sensitive situation of mild harassment – if we can use the word ‘mild’ for harassment at all.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend about some verbal sexual harassment which had happened to me. I didn’t really have time to try to elaborate on how desperate the situation of women in public spaces seemed to me because I was stopped short by his immediate answer: “You attract that kind of behaviour”.
I clearly remember that there was a moment of silence, the moment my friend, a former university classmate, who has been following the evolution of my organisation right from the beginning realized who he was talking to. I saw that he wanted to correct himself, but at the same time also took into account the fact that it was already too late – he was blaming the victim.
After that moment I slowly told him: “I don’t attract these situations. I’m just the one talking about them when they happen.” I suggested that he ask some other female friends, whether they had experienced similar situations of harassment. My biggest disappointment was that he hadn’t said it to be cruel, instead he was being simply ignorant. I tried to use the opportunity to consider the prejudices of society which were made clear in our interaction and in our friendship due to his reaction.
It took me a couple of days to realize that I was not only hurt by his reaction, I was also hurt by the little victim blaming person deep inside of me. A childlike creature who had been taught that I would not get into trouble with men unless I behaved a certain way, and that if I was ‘careful’, I would always be safe. But when you are harassed in the downtown of a European capital during a quiet, pleasant Sunday afternoon, then you can’t help but question yourself and your behaviour.
The first step for me, was monitoring this kind of incident. I noticed situations where I behaved based on assumptions, avoiding certain areas of the city due to fear of being harassed. Then I did what Katniss Everdeen would do, and purposely went to areas I considered not so safe, feeling, well, not so safe. The places I was the victim of harassment and verbal abuse most of the time were places you would not expect. I had the most personal experiences of harassment at a school, rather than a creepy place down the wrong end of town.
I have realized that my biggest fear is not the possibility of physical or sexual abuse that comes with simply being a woman in my city, but the attitude that would come afterwards. That loneliness, the lack of empathy, the way society denies the trauma that women feel after being harassed. I hope that the work I’m doing at Not Targets might contribute to a future where victims are not blamed by society and therefore neither by themselves.
About the Author:
Viktória Szekér is a Hungarian visual artist and human rights activist. She is currently doing her Master’s Degree in Production Design and is working as a freelance graphic designer, photographer and cinematographer. She is the founder and director of the Hungarian organisation, Not Targets, which visually campaigns against victim blaming. Ever since she started her university studies, she has been researching the ways visual arts can tackle taboos and traumas.