Rape Culture Part 2: Victim Blaming Why isn’t the Onus On Everyone to Protect Themselves?

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It seems fairly straightforward, humane right; a rape victim is never at fault for the assault visited upon them. These are facts backed up by science and psychology, evidenced through detailed police reports and anecdotally supported via support groups, victims’ rights organization records and therapy sessions; still public opinion doesn’t match up. A recent poll in the U.K. found some startling admissions on the part of citizens when it comes to the sensitive subject of rape; one third, for instance, feel a woman is at least partially responsible for her assault if she acts flirtatiously. A quarter of those surveyed find, at minimum, some degree of responsibility if she is wearing revealing clothing or is intoxicated; it can be inferred the numbers would be almost identical when discussing impairment by illegal drugs. One in five reportedly determined some fault to be place on a woman who is known to have many sexual partners; another third believed a portion of blame should be attributed to the woman if she “clearly failed to say no to the man.” Some interviewed even attributing blame to a woman who was walking alone in a dangerous, secluded area.  Other parts of the poll support the concept of rape ignorance in that, individuals participating either pointblank stated they did not know how many rapes there were per year, or drastically underestimated the number. Attitudes reasonably assumed to carry across a significant portion of the western world considering the Italian Jury who refused to convict a man of rape based on the victim’s wearing of skinny jeans and the alleged improbability the assailant could remove them without help, or the Australian judge who came to a nearly identical conclusion regarding a case there; openly stating he thought there was collaboration between victim and alleged attacker. Forget Italy is the same place who convicted Amanda Knox using improperly collected evidence and a fabricated story of sex games, so who exactly is surprised there?

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-369262/Women-blame-raped.html

Click here to read article about poll results.

No doubt as alarming as these poll opinions are, do they truly represent one, the complete face of rape in the U.K., and two, rape anywhere; outside its prevalence in war torn areas, as a torture tactic to gain information, political advantages, more than the disturbing attitudes revealed, the polling questions are skewed only asking about women, when men, transgender individuals get raped too. Only focusing on women excludes one half of the homosexual population, does not consider lesbian rape committed by a woman on another woman, doesn’t appear to take into account forced sex acts perpetrated on senior citizens, the rape, sexual exploitation that can happen to children making up the whole picture of rape in any country, any society particularly the U.K., United States and most western nations. Further do they, poll representative attitudes, actually constitute victim blaming or are they based on the common sense tools respondents use to prevent becoming victims, personal choices they make for themselves and expect others to as well? It lines up with an article for The Guardian on a new potential product out of New York; AR wear, a line of “anti- rape” underwear for woman that includes a combination known only to the wearer and straps that are very difficult to cut, thereby presenting a formidable obstacle to assault. The author asking why, today, in the 21st century, the responsibility remained on women to avoid being raped rather than men not to rape? While she is 100% correct in the meaning, implication and standard her question evokes, the bigger picture is, why isn’t the burden, responsibility, task laid on each gender equally to protect themselves?  To be abundantly clear, AR wear is a bad idea on several levels; not the least of which is only possibly preventing a small percentage of assaults committed by strangers, complete psychopaths vs. the two thirds committed by an acquaintance of the victim, can lead to increased violence even death when an assailant finds they cannot finish the act because of what the victim is wearing. It provides too easy a cop out for old, crusty, gray-haired politicians, government, judicial leaders to question why a woman wasn’t donning her AR wear inlieu of the difficult questions; such as, why men are so sexually aggressive, why the social understanding of consent is so far removed from the legal one causing men to engage in behavior, activity they are astonished they could get arrested for, why young people’s sex education doesn’t address emerging technology, incidents like sexting, include words like consent, sexual assault and that rape is a word used in parenthetical reference only left until the 12th grade, the state of Canada’s sex ed.  AR wear is a product that prevents us from delving deeper into why we believe every woman who accuses a man of sexual assault, in all likelihood some male gay victims, female lesbian victims are either claiming rape to save their reputation, not to admit they are sexually active, have had sex before marriage to their friends and family, to lie to husbands/boyfriends about cheating, because she didn’t know how to break up with him, to hide the number of willing sexual partners she’s had in the 21st century of relaxed sexual attitudes compared to the 1950’s? Why authorities assume a male victim is saying he was raped to hide his homosexuality or, if he is openly gay, presuming he liked it, asked for it by virtue of his sexuality, refusing to prosecute on those grounds. Creating a nearly identical scene for women dating, attracted to the same sex, saying they are “crying” rape to hide their preference, taking the stance your lesbian so what’s the big deal? Answering the writer’s question almost requires looking at the other side of the coin and encompasses, again multiple larger questions going beyond standard male patriarchy, malechauvinism, a prejudiced legal system favoring men and directly to why is confronting the idea there are things both sexes can do to avoid being victims, predominately for men, avoid being the accused, such a repugnant concept?

 http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2013/nov/11/problem-anti-rape-underwear-chastity-belt

 Click here to read one opinion on AR wear.

Why is it victim blaming, wrong to suggest not getting drunk, be that falling down drunk or tipsy, for any number of reasons but especially connected to sexual violence, sexual assault and rape; similarly why is it bad, victim blaming, shaming to extol the negatives of ever getting high let alone getting high, being high in an already extremely risky environment, a bar, a club, a druggie flophouse where anything can happen?  Exactly what is “victim blaming” about informing women, young girls, if you don’t want to be raped, want to decrease your chances, put some clothes on; more than leaving pants with phases, suggestive or otherwise, written on  the behind on the rack in the store, making sure that your rear, your cleavage isn’t hanging out of your clothing, that your skirt is not so short people can see your underwear if you fail to cross your legs, bend over to pick up an item you dropped, and lastly,  be sure you wear underwear namely with said dresses and skirts. Here the conservative/religious set elevate a valid observation about the male reaction to scantily clad women and what it can lead to; no that does not mean you have to dress like a Marryknoll nun, an Amish person if you aren’t, look like you belong to an FLDS cult modeled after Warren Jeffs. It means however, you can have, wear your little black dress, accentuating your figure without appearing raunchy; you can wear a flattering top and leave things to the imagination. Contrast the 2 video segments below; one a 14 year old holding a sign about disrespecting her parents by twirking simultaneously wearing shorts giving off their own suggestion, and a 19 year old whose dad tried to make a point about modesty. The latter looks ok, non-sexualized because they possess the body shape for that style to work sans screaming for sexual attention.  Rather than victim blaming or slut shaming it seems the duty of parents, mentors and public service announcements to alert high school, college age girls, women on up walking around with your behind or cleavage overly exposed is interpreted as an invitation to flirt, to ask out, to talk to the random women in a sexual manner, engaging in what many feel is sexual harassment, is an indication you are open to, want sex; realities increased by location and situation, a bar, club, party, are prime examples. Bringing us to our next exploratory question, how is it victim blaming, placing an undue burden on women to subsequently educate them that if they go to the aforementioned places in the aforementioned state of dress then say no to male advances, same sex partner advances in a gay/lesbian entertainment facility, going back to their place, and yes, sex you will be viewed as a tease, appear to be playing hard to get, inciting possible unwanted sexual harassment, assault, escalating to rape? Keeping with the club, party theme, where is the victim blaming in letting, particularly women who are disproportionately affected by sexual violence, know people usually frequent those scenes for 3 main things to get drunk, to hook up/have a one night stand, to score drugs. Facts that may deter some individuals, young, old, in between from ever being in one; speaking of which, when did handing out basic guidelines that, if you are going to go to a club, bar, party, do and don’t do this, this and this? Simple steps like watching your drink being poured, knowing what’s in it, not leaving it unattended can stop a tragedy. Brokering zero argument, once you cross the line to coercing, forcing another person to have sex with you, that is rape and the victim bares no fault in the perpetrators actions; whether they knew them, dated them, were married to them, were in the midst of foreplay when the victim said no, started showing reluctance, that they were obviously uncomfortable, or the assailant happened to be a perfect stranger is irrelevant. Their sexual history, number of former partners, the type of clothes they wear or where they were remains irrelevant. If a girl in a bar or adjacent type environment says she doesn’t want to go out on a date with you, doesn’t want to go back to your place, have sex with you, doesn’t want to be hit on or touched by you, she isn’t playing hard to get, she isn’t teasing; she’s actually uninterested and if you pursue her, you are guilty of sexual harassment. Lastly if the person you had sex with, are about to have sex with is so inebriated they are slurring their words, need help staying standing on their feet, or walking without falling down, were/are moments from passing out, is passed out, not only could you be accused of rape, charged with it, you are guilty of rape.







Interestingly enough headlines point to us taking more precautions to protect our homes, our property and our valuables than we do in guarding our own bodies, male or female, transgender, gay or straight; we follow maxims about locking doors and windows to avoid break ins, installing security systems, having neighbors collect mail, watch our house while on vacation, put our lights on timers, lock our vehicles, all in an attempt to prevent being robbed, stolen from. We either don’t smoke or are careful to put cigars and cigarettes out so we do not fall asleep with one staring a fire, are cautious with fire places, lit Christmas trees, barbeque grills, use smoke detectors and/or fire extinguishers to be alerted if there is one, minimize damage. We are careful to avoid scams online or off, if we are smart, we take steps to avoid identity theft, so following that line of everything we do daily, weekly monthly, in reference to situation X not putting our social security number on our driving license, creating complicated enough online passwords and being careful when we use our debit card, why is it suddenly in poor taste to apply those same principles to guarding ourselves against sexual violence? And to be clear we as members of society, as citizens of the world protect ourselves from any number of potential crimes that could be committed against us; rape and sexual assault are no different. Only advocates come off as seeming to think so, want to bandy about terms like ‘rape culture’ and placing, not more but all, responsibility on men not to rape, while women are almost being counseled away from standard personal safety as it relates to this specific crime; further saying so is less about assigning blame and instead focusing on every facet of the problem. If we don’t walk in a bad neighborhood at night to keep ourselves from being mugged, beat up, how is it victim blaming to add ‘to prevent rape’ to that list of reasons; addressing one of the creators of AR wear’s mock scenarios where their product could help, run in a well-lit, high traffic area at all times, especially at night. Can’t do that; change the schedule of when you run. There are likewise safety parameters for tourist travel abroad, things to observe in a foreign country on a business trip, another AR wear scene; wherever you have to go, you should do your research, know instrumental things about the culture, adhere to social mores when you can. Additional advice to repel burglars includes being cautious about who you let into your home, knowing who roommates and guests are; in several ways the same applies to shielding yourself against sexual assault, sexual violence, rape. Perhaps even more so since two thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.  Steering clear of the inter office romance, dating coworkers could prevent the weird guy with a fantasy from latching on to you, using another venue to look for potential dates besides “the bar scene” could mean less creeps, weirdoes and guys only interested in sex crossing your path, as could changing who you date. Maybe it’s time to stop dating “bad boys,” to really get to know someone; as cliché as the conservative, family values set is, cultivate a friendship before dating, never mind having sex, developing a solid relationship before moving in together. Being aware, tacking stock of red flags denoting your date is lying about their past, possibly hiding a criminal record, showing markers of a would be domestic abuser, a phenomenon that often encompasses not just physical, psychological and emotional abuse but a sexual element, a lesser known to the public, form of rape.

Returning us to the poll results do they signal appalling victim blaming or do they recognize undeniable patterns, common denominators in the stories of rape they hear about, headlines they read, incidents on their block, in their city, town. Are they laying blame or actually saying I can’t believe in the 21st century we have both young men and women, high school, college age individuals appearing in court, on witness stands, victim or accused, testifying they were drunk and don’t remember, were high and don’t remember, were either and passed out. Over and over elements keep displaying themselves whether that’s being scantily clad in a risky place, walking alone late at night, ear buds in place, oblivious to surroundings, dating someone classified under general opinion as a dirt bag and are mystified as to why, particularly women, appear to be ignorant of safety. After all the news story below proves we can’t get college kids to conform to rudimentary safety procedures on something as fundamental as locking your doors, forget an issue as complicated, nuanced as preventing rape. Part of respondent’s perceived frustration, evident in their answers, has to be this isn’t new information; public service announcements, awareness campaigns and self-defense seminars have disseminated this content for 30 odd years, warnings against clubs, caution measures doled out since date rape drugs started popping up in the ‘90’s, yet it doesn’t resonate in those who need it the most. Again, high school, college age persons found paying the rest of their life for one moment of inattention, one stupid mistake. They aren’t blaming so much as begging people not to put targets on their backs. Completely disregarded in citing the poll as cause for concern, is a strong likelihood those with the most passionate, far leaning views on the subject were the only, or majority of one’s willing to respond, as opposed to many reactions; pushing away surveyors, throwing away written questionnaires sent via mail delivery, hanging up on researchers conducting phone polling.

 http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/playlist/3469/4721897?title=police_news

Nor, independent of controversial judicial rulings, is the onus unfairly piled on women; the tips, techniques detailed here, traditionally given to women, can also aid men in not being a victim of less common male rape, provide needed guidelines to homosexual men and/or help men avoid being the accused in a heterosexual scenario. If you are stone cold sober, haven’t had more than a drink or two, your system is free of recreational drugs, abused prescriptions, not only can you give an accurate account to police of your whereabouts and actions, because I don’t know, I was drunk is less than not an excuse; it is no longer flying with law enforcement, juries or judges. But, your inhabitations are not so low you engage in risky behavior, consider having sex with a passed out, barely conscious person you wouldn’t if you were unimpaired. Key elements that had the Steubenville Ohio suspects employed, they might not have found themselves up on charges, their intoxication and perceived excuses driving motivations behind harsher charges and their ultimate conviction. Concurrently comprehending the function of a club, the reputation of guys who frequent them and maybe not going to one if you do not aim to get drunk, score drugs or look for sex; in places serving alcohol, no matter where they are, resolving not to get drunk, exercise limits and ignore peer pressure. Subsequently having a friendship relationship with a girl, women before dating, before sex alerts you to red flags like the possibility of an STD, a dysfunctional family life that could lead to you be accused of rape because her family doesn’t know she has a boyfriend, is sexual active, is not still a virgin, the negative reaction they could exhibit.  When you are unhindered by substances, you are capable of noticing the girl, women you’re hitting on doesn’t want the attention you are giving her, is more inebriated than you originally thought; here is where the onus begins for men legally under the law, things guys go to jail for doing or not doing. In possession of all your faculties you recognize the potential that the girl you groped in the club will go to the cops, you better understand the complications of having casual sex with a girl you don’t really know, aside from the threat of disease, pregnancy or future expectations, there is the distinct possibility she could believe she was raped especially if you encouraged her to drink alcohol, for instance to see at what point she would agree to have sex with you. Whatever the case, while the onus is on women to not put themselves at risk, to utilize basic personal, self-defense; men are just as responsible for seeing the inherent wrongness of plying a woman with alcohol to make her more suggestible to having sex, dropping something in her drink to make her less aware of what is happening to her, cause her to pass out completely. It remains up to men to obtain a definitive yes before going ahead with intercourse, to mentally register intoxication, coherence of their pursued sexual partner and if in doubt stop; individuals who didn’t thrown behind bars.           

Unfortunately using these steps, people doing their best to protect their person regardless of gender will not prevent all rapes, because at the end of the day rape is not about clothing, attractiveness, hair color, even demeanor. These guidelines cannot circumvent rapists for whom you fit their type, or you look like the person who hurt them on whom they want revenge but can’t get to, electing to harm you instead, you fulfill their literally sadistic fantasy, but neither do we live in a perfect world; a perfect world where there would be no rape, no war, no hunger, no poverty, no homelessness, no violence either. What it will do is stop the opportunistic rapist, will eliminate a rapist hunting for a target looking at you as possible easy pickings, because crimes and violence will always be with us what we do about it is paramount. Sans that perfect world, the next best ideal is a world where the only breaking and entering is committed by the destitute seeking shelter from the weather, the only stealing is by the desperate looking for food, clothing, violence committed by the truly deranged who need mental healthcare, not persons classified as amoral, gang banger, creep, jerk; sadly we’re not there yet. And until we are yes, we need proper, effective social, legal policy; however, that problem appears to lie heavily with judges who should be removed for incompetence, them along with prosecutors, police officers who never should have been put on the job because they didn’t have the knowledge, failed to assimilate it, didn’t have the right attitude for the cases, situations they were handling. There is a way to stop that and it isn’t screaming rape culture at the top of your lungs, it isn’t asking one dimensional questions. It is making sure young men, all men understand the responsibility parameters in the previous paragraph, have an accurate comprehension of consent from a legal standpoint, sexual harassment from a legal point of view. It concludes in ensuring every area of law enforcement can apply facts about every type of crime to various situations; all that boiling down to education, not social deconstruction.           

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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