The six episodes leading up to the season two finale of HBO's 'Big Little Lies' was full of drama, fights, hookups, and a whole lot of lies. When the seventh and final episode of the season started, viewers were biting their nails with anticipation while sitting on the edge of their seat.
Mary Louise's main claim for gaining custody of Max and Josh was that Celeste is ill and unfit to raise children because she has a "sickness". Throughout the entire season—especially in the courtroom—whenever Celeste mentioned how her late husband would beat her, Mary Louise would always blame the abuse on her.
Because Perry's abuse would sometimes lead to sex, Mary Louise tried to use victim-blaming to present Celeste as a "sick" person who enjoyed being assaulted; according to Mary Louise, any mother who would use violence that leads to sex should not be raising young children.
This tendency of blaming the victim of sexual assault and even rape is all too common. If a woman is raped, she may be asked by someone, "well, what were you wearing?" The suggestion that a woman's actions, attire, or words are responsible for the abuse she received is, sadly, very real.
Even women who haven't actually been assaulted have experienced these types of suggestions. If a guy catcalls a girl and speaks very explicitly about the things he wants to do to her even though she expresses that she's uncomfortable, someone may ask her, "haven't you two been flirting for a few weeks? How could you not expect that he's into you and wants to hook up?"
If I were to tell my male peers about how I sometimes get followed around off-campus, I bet at least one of them would ask, "well, were you wearing anything sexy?" One guy who I used to be very close with had the nerve to say, "maybe you should stop wearing such revealing clothes when you go out if you don't want to be catcalled". I practically fell off my chair when he said that.
Instead of looking at the actions of the assailant or aggressor, people sometimes focus on how the victim could have acted (or dressed, or spoken) differently in order to avoid the situation. I guess it's easier to address the words we write in a flirty text or the clothes we wear to a party rather than addressing the real, heavy problem at hand: sexual assault and rape.
Yet, on the stand, when Celeste whipped out her badass lawyer skills and questioned Mary Louise herself, the truth came out that Perry was, in fact, a violent man: video evidence of Perry assaulting his wife was shown to the court, Jane attested to Perry's aggressive nature by sharing that he raped her, and even Mary Louise slipped up by saying that her son had violent tendencies.
The victim-blaming technique Mary Louise implemented to try to win the case didn't work this time; although the judge questioned Celeste on her sexual habits that include violence, she ultimately ruled that it's in the best interest of the children that they're not removed from their mother's care.
By the court not giving in to Mary Louise blaming Celeste for the assault her husband inflicted upon her, the tactic of victim-blaming is being exposed for what it is: a despicable way to avoid tackling the real problem at hand: actual assault and actual rape. Hopefully, viewers will become more aware of victim-blaming and feel increasingly inclined to never blame an assault victim.
(If you or anyone you know is struggling with assault, NEVER hesitate to speak up about it or encourage someone to talk about it. Violence is all too real, so it's important that we help each other get through our struggles and move on to healthier chapters of our lives.)
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