Blame the guilty: no one asks for rape

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.


Another case in point:  Jury acquits accused rapist; rules woman’s skinny jeans so tight, she must have helped remove them


One thought on “Blame the guilty: no one asks for rape

  1. Hi Jen! Just catching up on your blog.

    As always, thank you for highlighting these stories. This kind of discourse disgusts me.

    Whenever I come across these instances where the victim is blamed for provoking the sexual assault, I am always reminded of the rape of Dinah in Genesis 34. While I am aware of the later midrashim/interpretations of this event in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, I still think that the biblical narrative itself explains that Dinah was raped (and subsequently denied her tribal blessing) because she “went out” to visit the daughters of the land, and this is unacceptable behaviour for a woman. So, my sense is that this “she-was-asking-for-it” attitude is not just a phenomenon of popular culture today.

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