TRIGGER WARNING: discussions of rape, abuse and offensive language and ideas.
December 15, 2012 CHICAGO— a 12 year old girl is held by gunpoint and gang-raped by three 16 year old boys in the basement of one of the rapist’s homes. August 12, 2012 STEUBENVILLE— an unconscious 16 year old girl is raped at a party by two 16 and 17 year old football players The thing these two heinous crimes have in common? Both victims were blamed for what happened to them.
Rape-splaining and victim blaming are two of the biggest proponents of the pervasive rape culture that we all live in. Rape-splaining is the explaining away of a sexual assault or rape; this includes coming up with excuses for the rapists and subtly placing the blame on the victim. Victim blaming is more overt in its shifting of the blame from rapist to victim, but both of these tactics give the victim responsibility for what happened to them. Since people are constantly bombarded with this cultural mindset, both rape-splaining and victim blaming can easily be found in verbal and cyber conversations. Ms. Magazine pointed out the 10 most common examples of victim blaming in an article last week.
Let’s take a deeper look at them now:
1. The victim was asking for it. This is the line that I hear most commonly in regards to sexual assault and rape. If a girl is drunk, acting like she “wants the D”, or is dressed provocatively, she obviously is asking for rape, right? The more thought you put into this argument, the more absurd it sounds. Women have every right to drink, be flirty, and wear what they want without being in physical danger. Scotland got it right when they filmed an anti-victim blaming advertisement; the victim is never asking for it!
2. Men get these biological urges to rape; they just can’t help themselves. According to the UK’s Rape Crisis Center, “studies show that most rapes are premeditated i.e. they are either wholly or partially planned in advance. All rapes committed by more than one assailant are always planned.” Men are human beings, right? Don’t human beings have free will to make their own choices? Why are men any different when it comes to sexual urges? Men aren’t animals, and if I were a man, I would honestly resent the implication that I couldn’t control myself. Rape is a choice that men make with their brains, not with their penises.
3. The victim might have made it up. This one makes me, and countless other feminists/women/rational humans, quite upset. Why are people more ready to believe that the woman is lying than that she has been victimized? If someone was robbed, this question would never even be fathomed by onlookers. Look below at the lovely infographic made by the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey. It speaks for itself.
4. The victim is ruining the life of the rapist; the rapist had so many prospects. When a man chooses to rape a woman, he is making a choice. Albeit a stupid and awful choice, but it is a decision that is consciously made. He weighed the pros and cons of the situation, and although he might claim that he was caught up in the moment, he infringed on another individual’s liberty and personhood. For this, he must face the consequences. It is not the victim’s fault that a man chose to rape her, even if he was a star athlete/genius/musical prodigy/etc. He may be such a “promising boy”, but he is also a rapist and that can’t be forgotten.
5. The victim should not have been in that situation/known that person/lived in that neighborhood/walked down that street/gone to that bar, etc., etc. Again, the point must be made that MEN NEED TO CONTROL THEMSELVES!! It’s a disgusting double standard that our society perpetuates. Name any situation where a woman would feel unsafe, some examples being: walking down a dark alley, going to her car at night in an empty parking lot, going to a bar, going over to a guy’s house. Now imagine a man being in the same situation. People wouldn’t consider it unsafe for him to be there, but if a woman does the same exact thing, she is asking for whatever happens to her. The point here is that society shouldn’t be restricting a woman’s freedom in this way; instead, society needs to be telling men to not rape women.
6. People of certain races/ages/classes/backgrounds are just more prone to violent behavior. False false false. There isn’t a cookie-cuttter, typical rapist. Yes, rapists are a product of their environment, but not of economic/ethnic/racial/age/social groups. Rapists are a product of the Rape Culture, of a culture where violence against women is tolerated, of a culture where women are sexualized to such an extent that it is incredibly easy to view them more as objects and less as human beings.
7. The victim didn’t say no. Just because she didn’t say no, doesn’t mean she’s saying yes. What is consent, ladies and gentlemen? The legal definition of consent is when “a person who possesses and exercises sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision demonstrates consent by performing an act recommended by another.” There are many important aspects to this definition, such as the person must be mentally able to make this decision and they perform the act recommended. Consent is a resounding yes, not the absence of a no.
8. In cases of underage perpetrators: The rapist is only a child him/herself. The rapist made the conscious decision to violate another human being. He made the choice and should therefore be tried as an adult. Rape isn’t a juvenile offense such as shoplifting; it is the exertion of power and dominance over another resistant human being. Shoplifting, vandalism, and other lesser offenses won’t ruin lives. Rape, on the other hand, can end lives. 13% of rape victims will commit suicide. If an adolescent can cause another human so much trauma that they take their own life, then why shouldn’t they take the full punishment for their actions?
9. The victim should have known what he/she was getting him/herself into. Rape isn’t the victim’s mistake, it’s the rapist’s. Why should women have to live in fear because of men’s choices? Obviously the victim didn’t know they were going to be raped, or else they wouldn’t have gone. Saying that the victim should have anticipated a sexual assault is absurd. This is just another excuse to try to let the rapist get off free.
10. The victim’s parents should have taught him/her warning signs. I think Andrea Gibson said it better than I ever could. Society has told women and girls so many different ways to try and prevent rape, but those haven’t seemed to work. The question shouldn’t be “What should you tell your daughter?” The question should be “What are you going to teach your son?”
Rape-splaining and victim blaming perpetuate a rape culture. These are the 10 most common examples of victim blaming, but there are many more that are tossed around in conversation every day. These excuses make a hostile environment for victims, and even more unsettling, they make a safe environment for rapists.
They need to stop.