She shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt!
She shouldn’t have been drinking!
She shouldn’t have led him on!
Why is it that whenever a woman is raped people are so quick to blame the victim? What did she do wrong? What could she have done differently?
Worse than blaming the victim, people are also quick to question whether or not a rape actually occurred. Was she really raped? Is she exaggerating?
When rape victims aren’t being blamed or questioned for what people think may or may not have happened, they are often the butt of insensitive jokes that make light of a very serious issue that affects way too many women.
So what’s worse? Blaming the victim? Questioning the victim? Or using the victim as a punch line?
Take a look at the following five examples below and decide for yourself.
1. She Liked It
“Some girls like to be raped.” (Yes you read that correctly).
Such was the response of Israeli Judge Nissim Yeshaya in an appeal court ruling on the gang rape of a 13-year-old girl by four Palestinian boys.
Following the expected uproar after such remarks, the court released a statement saying the judge’s comments “were not intended to hurt or disrespect rape victims” and that he apologizes for his comment.
Saying that a girl enjoys rape is not only hurtful and disrespectful, but also offensive and ignorant. Let’s not confuse sex and rape. They are two completely separate things. You can and should enjoy sex. Rape is done against a person’s will and not something that is enjoyed. Do we really need to explain the difference? An apology is far from enough and luckily the judge has since resigned from his post.
Miriam Schler, director of the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center, which received more than 40,000 reports of sexual assaults from women last year, said the following about the incident:
It’s outrageous these people are supposed to deciding the fate of these women and they don’t have the faintest idea of what it means to be a victim of sexual assault. Women don’t trust the system. These incidents (the judge’s remarks) give them even less reason to trust it.
With comments like Judge Yeshaya’s it’s no surprise that of the 40,000 reports of sexual assault, fewer than 20 percent were filed as a claim.
2. She Drank Too Much
In the first quarter of 2013, the number of rape cases in Hong Kong have increased a startling 60 percent. In response to this dramatic increase Hong Kong Security Secretary said the following:
Some of these cases…involved the victims being raped after drinking quite a lot of alcohol. So I would appeal that young ladies should not drink too much.
There it is ladies. For your safety you should abstain from drinking alcohol because that’s the reason so many women are getting raped.
I mean really? The Security Secretary had the gall to say that after a 60% increase in the number of reported cases. That’s ridiculous and extremely representative of the victim-blaming that happens all too often.
3. Blame It On The Alcohol
Over here in the United States, blaming rape victims for their alcohol use is also a common practice. Take for example the Missoula Montana Police Department which has been noted for mistreating victims on numerous occasions.
A woman who reported being gang raped was told by police that it was “probably just a drunken night and a mistake.”
Another woman who reported her rape and the fact that she said “no” on numerous occasions and fought back against her assailant was told the assault was “mostly voluntary fueled by alcohol.”
In both instances women were made to feel guilty, when in fact they should have received compassion or at the very least respect.
An intensive year-long investigation from the U.S. Justice Department has found that police practice discourages victims from cooperating with law enforcement. According to the DOJ letter regarding Missoula, ”investigative weaknesses appear due, at least in part, to stereotypes and misinformation about women and victims of sexual assault.”
The police department has begun to reform the way they handle rape cases in order to better serve victims and advocate on their behalf. Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, however, has refused to cooperate with federal investigators, saying his office did nothing wrong and that the feds have no authority over their actions.
4. It Wasn’t Rape
Did you know “rape isn’t always rape” if the victim is say drunk, with a boyfriend or led the man on?
Such were comments made by former Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross who made the following metaphor about rape:
We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door. We would be aghast if an airport badly skimped on its security…our forebears would be baffled that girls are mostly unescorted, stay out late, often get profoundly drunk and sometimes openly kiss, grope or go to bed with one-night stands.
It’s no surprise women are getting raped! How dare they go out without an escort, stay out late, kiss, grope or have sex with anyone for that matter!
Sadly, this isn’t a joke (and if it were it wouldn’t be funny). Ross now studies crimes and has concluded that women are often to blame for their rapes and shouldn’t report them if they feel responsible:
What if she feels partly responsible for what happened? What if she realises there is no evidence other than her word against his? What if her life is bound up with that of her assailant? What if she feels humiliated as well as violated?
Truth is often there is no other evidence beyond ‘he said she said’ because women are too afraid to report, especially because they don’t want to get blamed. The rapist is also often wrapped up in the victims life because more often than not they know each other. And lastly, feeling humiliated and violated are normal reactions to getting raped.
Does all this mean a woman should suffer in silence and not seek justice?
I think not!
5. Rape is Funny
The most recent example of rape being used to get a laugh happened earlier this week at Microsoft’s E3 press conference when a man, one of the producers of a game, and a woman were demonstrating a new fighting game.
As the man and woman battled, with the man clearly dominating the game, he said, “Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon,” followed later by, “Wow you like those.” Take a look for yourself.
To some this might not have seemed like a big deal at all, which I would argue is part of the larger problem of joking about rape in the first place. These jokes are so ingrained in our culture that many don’t think twice when they hear thinly-veiled attempts such as this one.
Additionally, when those of us point out that these jokes aren’t cool and actually pretty offensive, they are inundated with insults. We are so sensitive. We have no sense of humor. We can’t take a joke. Well, sorry but I’m not sorry that I don’t find these jokes funny in the least and won’t stop pointing out how messed up they are.
I am baffled by the fact that people continue to blame victims after they are raped and I won’t stop talking about it until it becomes a rarity.
Have you come across any victim-blaming stories that make you want to scream? Please share in the comments below!
Photo by Claus Rebler used under a Creative Commons license.