Stop Blaming the Victim

I recently read an article that talked about how victim-blaming attitudes are still so prevalent. The article began by talking about the rape case in Australia where the man was acquitted based on the fact that the girl was wearing skinny jeans. The defense’s argument was that the perpetrator could not have removed the jeans without the girl’s help. That is the argument that got him acquitted.

This is not the first time that a rapist was acquitted based on a court adhering to victim-blaming mentalities like what clothes the woman was wearing or if the woman was drinking alcohol. In April we celebrated Denim Day, which began because an Italian court ruled that a man accused of raping an 18 year old girl couldn’t have done it because her jeans were too tight to take off without consent.  

Unfortunately, the “skinny jean” defense is not the only case of victim-blaming and rape-apology that is happening. In March, a student columnist at American University published a column talking about date-rape. In his article, the student, among other things, makes an argument that since feminists want you to get consent before engaging in sexual activities that they are trying to “abolish its passion.”  What he’s arguing is that the whole idea of sex is all about passion and not stopping to make sure it consensual, because that would ruin the mood. This diatribe leads him into talking about how date-rape is an “incoherent concept”:

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to a (fraternity) party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next    morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

“Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry.

What’s worse than courts acquitting men of rape because of a woman wearing jeans or some people believing that if a woman drinks and follows a man to his bedroom then that should be considered consent? What’s worse is that not just men hold victim blaming views, it’s women too. According to an article published in the NY Daily News, new studies are showing that many women believe that rape victims are partly to blame for the crime. One third of the participants in the study believe that women who dress provocatively or go back to the man’s house for a drink should shoulder some of the blame for the crime. A staggering 71 percent of the women surveyed believed that the victim needs to take partial responsibility for the rape if she went to bed with the man.

All of these attitudes fall under the victim-blaming category. Instead of addressing the actual problem of the perpetrator taking advantage of a woman or ignoring her non-consent or a man who drugs a woman’s drink, some people still look at what a woman is doing and blaming her for ‘getting herself into that situation’. This is unacceptable. A woman or a man for that matter has every right to withdraw consent at any time. Whether the crime occurs before anything happens or after, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing, skimpy clothes or not, and if a woman wants to drink she shouldn’t have to be afraid that someone is going to take advantage of her. And yes it’s still rape if you are dating that person or have already had sex with them, anytime you say ‘no’ or are unable to say ‘no’ and someone forces intercourse on you then it is rape.

People need to stop blaming the victim. There is never an instance when someone deserves to be violated because of something they did, something they wore, or because they chose to go to a party and drink.

One Comment

  1. Emily Mathis
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Here is a great article about all the ways we blame victims of sexual assault or excuse sexual assault:

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