My project was on the Sociology of Sexual Assault Victims. I displayed my theme on a mirror because many sexual assault victims have residual pain and guilt blamed on themselves. They see themselves differently through their own eyes and the eyes’ of others. The mirror puts the perspective of a sexual assault victim on anyone who stands in front of it. I have created a dirty, unfiltered mirror to show how a sexual assault victim may feel after their assault.
The 5 themes I used to introduce my project were:
‘I and Me’- ‘I’ being the person you are without the perceptions of people, who you are when you’re comfortable and relaxed, while ‘Me’ is the person you want others to know you as, the edited version of yourself. Social philosophy was created by George Herbert Mead in the late 1800’s.
Social Norms- is the set of rules that are accepted and followed by majority of a group or in this case society. People who do not follow these rules are generally shunned, shammed or have some type of consequence.
Dramaturgy (front and back stage)- The front stage is the person you chose to be in front of others and the back stage is who you can be when released from being politically correct. Social philosophy was created by Ervin Goffman in his 1959 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.
Looking Glass Self- is the idea that a person’s self grows out the perceptions of others, along with the socialization with others and their interpersonal interactions. Social philosophy was created by Charles Horton Cooley in his 1902 book Human Nature and the Social Order.
“I” – After being sexually assaulted there is a lot of reflection that takes place within the victim, many victims believe their assault was their own fault. The “I” persona goes through a lot of changes. People have an image and idea of themselves before the assault and they have changes that affect their “I” afterward. Some people may experience lack of passion, emotions and pain, while others can be over flooding with emotions from their assault. When the assault is still fresh many victims feel dirty, they store their feelings with fear of being judged or blamed, and they can become antisocial for the duration of their time healing. Many people handle grief and trauma differently but there is to be an expected change within their “I”. When the trauma first happens, they may feel they could’ve done something to stop the assaulter, or blame themselves for reasons that are uncontrollable. Hopefully through growth and self-love victims can become stronger and love themselves more, they will not accept blame that isn’t theirs, they can recognize what happened wasn’t something they could change, and they are not responsible for the pain that was inflicted upon them. Sexual assault never completely goes away, there may be times where the thought of what happened still has an effect on the victim. The “I” is the mirror of my project, showing how a victim may seem themselves after sexual assault.
“Me”- The “me” after a sexual assault. The persona of “me” is how you want to be seen from the outside looking in. How family, friends, coworkers, and others see you. After a sexual assault people who are close to you may notice small changes with you. Victims may even take notice and want to have control over how they are being perceived. They may manipulate their own character to have people see them in a certain light. This control of self, can be tiring. While trying to maintain who they were and how they acted prior to their assault, they neglect the person who is in pain within themselves. They choose a life based on how others perceive them, rather than a life where they understand themselves and are able to share that with others without the fear of being ridiculed. This is called Impression Management. Of course the “me” is malleable, and when they get to a time in life where they feel comfortable enough with the openness of themselves with others, they may have a change in their “me” again. The “Me” of my project is the mirror with the victim in front of it but this time the victim isn’t focused on their inner self, but the person he/she is with of other people.
Social Norms- Although sexual assault has been witnessed throughout history, still to this day there is very few places a sexual assault victim can feel safe to express themselves. This is due to Social Norms. From the 1990’s to now there has been a significant drop in yearly sexual assaults reported but still every 2 minutes another person is sexually assaulted or raped. This may be because when women and men speak out about their sexual assault experience, they are slammed with questions. Questions like what they wore, drank, ate, acted like on that day. They get pushed into a corner to find out if they really are a victim. People have more of an interest to find out if you’re lying about your assault than if you’re in pain, or if you’re okay. Many victims never report their rape for this exact fear. Fear of everybody knowing what happened to them, but also the fear of what repercussions might ensue after they speak out about what happened to them. It’s socially normal that we blame the victims before we think the assaulter might actually be guilty. When it is a female victim and a male assaulter, we say, “she wanted it”, “she was wearing skimpy clothes”, and “she already had 4 beers”. When it is a male victim and a female assaulter, we ask “how’s that even possible” or if it was “even painful” for the man. We have a repeating factor throughout the questions and statements. It is to question whether the victim has a ‘real’ rape or sexual assault to report. Why is it that the victim is questioned and guilt into believing that this is their fault? Social Norms. America’s social norm when it comes to dealing with rape is blame the victim, normalize the rape or assault, and free the assaulter of any charges. The clearest example of this is in the case of Brock Turner. He was a swimmer at Stanford who had raped a female student behind a dumpster. While in court, Judge Perskey “opted for the lighter sentence (of six months of time in jail), saying a lengthier penalty would have a ‘severe impact’ on Turner”. The rapist’s father also had some words for news outlets, saying that 6 months in jail for rape was a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”. Brock Turner ended up serving 3 months of his 6-month sentence.
Dramaturgy (front and back stage)- The front stage in sociology is the reaction you display whilst in public, when you’re on the spot, the edited version of your reactions. When you’re working and a customer is complaining, you answer with political correctness and fix the problem best as you can. When you go to the back of your work area, you are able to say what you want to say whether it be to yourself or coworkers. You get to outlet all your feelings.
Applying this idea to sexual assault victims shows itself in many examples. One being the courtroom and afterward. Another is letting someone know that you were sexually assaulted or raped and the reaction they give you, that you respond to. Letting someone know that you have been a victim of sexual assault is never easy. You are unpeeling apart of yourself that people may not understand or misinterpret. Due to social norms their reaction normally falls in line with the majority of views of people. My experience of sharing my own sexual assault, has had mixed reactions. One instance I had was at school. I had told two of my closest friends and although they were sympathetic, they didn’t quite understand how severe it was to me. When questioned about it, I often didn’t go in to detail or let them know how deeply it affected me. In this way I was shielding myself from their thoughts that they hadn’t even had the chance to process. When letting my other friend know she shared with me that I could’ve stopped what happened to me. She let me know her full thoughts she had and essentially told me that I was responsible and should’ve been more careful. My front stage was so in shock that I told her she would never understand, unless she went though it herself, and that I hoped that she never would have to. I was hurt, and upset by how she blamed me. She had no clue or insight to the months prior to me telling her, that I blamed myself, that I kept it all locked within, and created guilt and hate within myself. When I got home that day, I can remember sitting in my room, thinking NO. No I wasn’t responsible for what happened to me. What happened to me was forced, and unwanted. I said no, my assaulter knew what he was doing. I can remember talking back and forth in the comfort of my room, my back stage. Where I could let loose and explain to myself that the truth is that no one will understand my assault fully, I am not required to give them all the details so they can decide whether it happened or not. I am not at fault and I have to remember these things before others thoughts take over my own. You may not always have the chance to stand up for yourself in the front stage or in the moment, but with reflection you can always let yourself hear the truth in your back stage.
Looking glass self- When it comes to the looking glass self and sexual assault, a victim’s interpretation of where they stand in front of others can sway. If you surround yourself with people who think sexual assault and rape isn’t a thing, you can deny your own assault or take credit for something that happened that wasn’t your fault. If you surround yourself with people who understand rape and understand that it can happen to anyone, you can acknowledge what you’ve been through and how it affected you without wondering whether or not they believe you. With the looking-glass self we see ourselves from others eye’s looking in. We can develop a skewed version of ourselves which can have negative effects. Although the looking glass self can give us multiple interpretations of other’s views on us, it is important that we only adapt the perceptions of others that are correct or coordinate with our true feelings.
How I Made it – I made it using an old mirror, dry erase markers, some tacky lotion and makeup like bronzer and eyeshadows. After writing my headings on my mirror, I doused my hands in lotion and swiped them across the mirror focusing on the center of the mirror going out wards. After that I took my bronzer and shadows and used the brown to black spectrum to dirty up the handprints. I used my hands to create prints and smudges to be the equivalent of how a victim is touched and assaulted by the hand of another person. The outcome was supposed to reflect this and how a victim can feel dirty and used afterward.
Advice for other students on completing their own project:
-Set aside time just for this project, even if you are stumped on what to create, sit in your room, listen to music, get online research the gist of what you may want to do your project over and let that all steep over.
-When you are ready to create go in full force, you can always revise and edit yourself when you take a step back.
-I think this project pushed my limits more than most projects I’ve done. It stretches how far you think you can go. So push the limits and see what you can create.
-Don’t stop till you feel good about your project.
-If your project needs real life examples, go on the internet, look for court cases or real life scenarios you can make so your audience and yourself can have a clearer image of your ideas.