There’s a nasty little trend in popular culture today where victims of sexual assault are blamed, which often takes shape in a ‘she-was-asking-for-it’ discourse. It happens a lot in the reporting of such events, so news media are particularly culpable for this phenomena, although I’ve heard enough people do it.
Here are two recent examples:
- When a woman came forward accuse Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger of sexual assault, a National Post journalist wrote that the victim had been drinking.
- When ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews was stalked and filmed naked in her hotel room (without her consent), The View‘s Elizabeth Hasselbeck commented on her revealing clothing to say she lures men in.
From my point of view, it doesn’t matter if she was drinking. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. It doesn’t matter if was walking alone at night. It doesn’t matter if she was being flirtatious. It doesn’t matter if she’s a sex worker. No one asks for sexual assault, and no one is to blame but the person who committed the act. Yes, journalists are responsible for assuming innocence until proven guilty, but that does not entail justifying the alleged crime.
On this topic, your homework assignment is to read Yes Means Yes, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti.