Today I wore black skinny jeans, tucked into black leather boots, with a navy blue top and a black long cardigan.
I wonder if this outfit would have solicited a leaflet called “Women & Girls” from a complete stranger that claims “ungodly” dressed women provoke rape.
Keshia Canter, a 19-year-old girl working at a fast food drive-through in Bristol, VA was given such a leaflet from customers passing through her window while at work. That day Canter was wearing a pink zebra-print shirt with a black jacket zipped over it and boots pulled up over a pair of jeans.
The woman passing through the drive-through said to Canter, “Even though nothing is showing, you’re being ungodly. You make men want to be sinful,” handing her the religious leaflet as the car drove away.
Here are some of the gems printed in the “Woman & Girls” leaflet:
- “You may have been given this leaflet because of the way you are dressed. Have you thought about standing before the true and living God to be judged?”
- “Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin.”
- “By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?”
That last one really says it all in the what’s worst in victim-blaming game. Too bad the victim-blaming game plays with women when they are at their most vulnerable, often keeping them from reporting crimes or ever bringing them to trial. Fearful that they will be judge and blamed for what happened silences too many women from seeking justice for the crimes committed against them.
Sandra G. Rasnake, the sexual assault program director at Bristol’s Crisis Center, points to another reason victim-blaming is so popular that I pointed out in a post I wrote a few weeks back about a poll in the UK that found women blame victims for being raped – the defense mechanism. People often use the she asked for it excuses to distance themselves from the idea that it could have happened to them.
“Blaming victims is the way we who have not been victimized feel safer,” Rasnake told the Bristol Herald Courier. “If it’s their fault then I’m safer because I wouldn’t do that. If someone steals your purse, can you imagine someone asking why you had a purse? If you are sexually assaulted, it is not because you come with breasts.”
She also points out that these excuses are insulting to men, claiming that they cannot control themselves when they see a woman in a short skirt or plugging neckline. If I were a man I’d certainty be insulted and as a woman who has fortunately never been raped I’m angered by excuses that would place blame on me for something I never ever want to happen to me.
I’ve said it before and I knew I’d have to say it again: A woman is never responsible for being raped, never.
Blaming a woman’s skirt, dress, or shoes does nothing but redirect blame that should be placed squarely on the rapist.
I don’t understand why we are so afraid of blaming rapists for the crimes they commit? Does it make it scarier to say that someone forced a woman to have sex with them against her will? Does it make it scarier to say that a woman repeatedly refused and fought back but was unsuccessful?
Of course it does, but rape is a very real, scary thing. It might make us feel safer to place blame elsewhere, but what does that do to women who aren’t as lucky as me who have lived through being raped?
What did you wear today? Would you have passed the “Women & Girls” leaflet test?
Photo by einalem used with a Creative Commons license.