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When Will We Blame the Rapist? A Pajiba Sunday Sermon

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | October 21, 2013 | Comments ()


coleman.jpg

A few days ago I swore to myself I wasn’t going to write about rape again. The past week has been a demented media festival of victim blaming and it was getting me down—but plenty of other people were addressing the goings-on. As I began reading the myriad parallel articles following Anonymous’ press release about the rape of two young girls in Maryville, Missouri, I realized my resolve was quickly being chipped away. Still, a nagging little voice in my head pestered; “People don’t want to be slapped with a rape headline every damned day. There are so many depressing things going in the news already…people need escape.” Rape is a nightmarish subject, and even the most empathetic reader doesn’t care to dwell on thoughts of it any longer than is absolutely necessary; it’s fucking depressing. For people who have been sexually assaulted, the rest of their lives are often spent trying to get past (forget) the moment their lives completely changed. Some days when I see the headlines, I think to myself, “Do we have to talk about rape every single day?” I don’t know…maybe we really do.

Let me back up just a minute here; last week, there was a big hullabaloo over a Slate piece in which writer Emily Yoffe basically suggested women should stop drinking to the point of incapacitation so they won’t get raped. Now mind you, if she’d written that college girls and guys should stop drinking—ineffectual idea though it is—her piece might not have gotten the same negative attention, but suggesting that if women don’t drink they won’t be raped is foolish. Rape doesn’t happen because people are drinking, rape happens because one human being has no respect for another human being. Inside a rapist’s head there is something that says, “What I want is more important than what you want; in fact, it’s more important than you, so I’m just going to take what I want.” As you can imagine, there were plenty of responses to Yoffe’s piece, then she followed up with another piece, and we were all so distracted by the fighting, we weren’t paying attention to a most relevant case, less than an inch away in the headlines.

If perhaps you hadn’t heard Daisy Coleman’s rape story earlier, this week she wrote about it herself. Fourteen at the time of the attack (her friend was thirteen), Coleman simply recounts that on the night of January 8, 2012, she and her best friend Paige (who was sleeping over) had been secretly drinking, and after Coleman texted with an older boy (17 year old Matthew Barnett), the girls snuck out of Coleman’s house to be picked up by Barnett; he drove the girls to his house. At the Barnett home, several high school boys were gathered, drinking and watching football. Barnett gave Coleman more alcohol, she drank it and at some point blacked out. After she was raped, Coleman was left on her front yard in the snow, barefoot—discarded like trash. Alerted by barking dogs, Coleman’s (single) mother Melinda discovered her daughter outside, wet and freezing, brought her in, and drew a bath to warm her. When she realized something more had happened to Daisy, Melinda took her to the ER where it was confirmed Daisy had been raped. Her friend Paige had also been raped and taken to the hospital. A video of Daisy being raped (taken by one of the other boys) made the rounds at the high school. Though multiple charges—including felony rape—were brought against Matthew Barnett, two months later they were mysteriously dropped (purportedly due to “lack of evidence”), and the Colemans suffered harassment to the point the family left town. The house they left behind was suspiciously burned to the ground. After The Kansas Star published this excellent, detailed piece about the events surrounding these rapes, Anonymous began its campaign to have the Coleman case investigated; two days later Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder called for a grand jury review (a special prosecutor is being sought). And so we had a moment in which we could find some solace, knowing there may finally be a little bit of justice found. But wait, don’t even bother to let that feeling begin to wash over—because Fox news was still out there, waiting to pounce.

It’s one thing when an ignorant internet collective hurls around insults, blaming rape victims for wearing certain clothes, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or drinking themselves into being attacked; quite another when a news outlet (even if it’s Fox) allows someone spewing the same vile horseshit to hit the airwaves. Following the grand jury review announcement, Fox news anchor Shepard Smith asked criminal defense attorney and “industry expert” Joseph DiBenedetto his opinion on the case. After speculating that Daisy Coleman was probably lying, DiBenedetto said,

“She is leaving her home at 1 a.m. in the morning and nobody forced her to drink. And what happens? She gets caught by her mom, she’s embarrassed and the easy way out here is, ‘Mom, someone took advantage of me.’ But what did she expect to happen at 1 a.m. in the morning after sneaking out? I’m not saying — assuming that these facts are accurate and this did happen — I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but knowing the facts as we do here including what the prosecutor has set forth, this case is going nowhere and it’s going nowhere quick.”

In case you need to see it for yourself:

I almost threw up. So let me get this straight; if a fourteen year old girl leaves her house past a certain hour and drinks, she should expect—but may not deserve—to be raped. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute…

First of all, if one more person talks about rape with the word “deserve” anywhere in a nearby sentence, my head is going to explode. Secondly, no matter what Emily Yoffe or Joseph DiBenedetto say, alcohol does not beget rape. And thirdly, when are we all going to stop shaming, blaming and ripping apart rape victims—even when they are children? When are we going to put the attention squarely where it belongs—on the rapist? There are fundamental steps not being taken, notably visible with these high profile rape cases like Coleman’s, where the rapists are local sports heroes, or from well-connected families or tightly-knit communities. Here are a few statistics (from a 2013 report based on data taken between 1995 and 2010, U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics) you may find surprising:

91% of rape victims are female; 99 percent of arrested rapists are men.

Nearly 2 of 3 rapists are known to the victim (friend or acquaintance).

According to RAINN, 54% of rapes go unreported, and

Only 3% of rapists will ever spend time in jail. 3%.

Let’s get this alcohol business out of the way. Does drinking sometimes make people act stupid, incapacitate them or make them less capable of making good decisions? Yes. Does drinking somehow create rapists or victims; does it give anyone permission to rape, or set a person up for rape? No. I’m all for personal responsibility and awareness; I have two young daughters and you can bet your ass I’ll discuss all manner of self-defense as they’re growing into young women. But I also have a young son, and of all the things we try to instill in him, kindness toward and respect for other people are at the top of the list. Before I ever worry about any of them ingesting alcohol, I’ll do my damnedest to make sure they understand what the word “No” means, and we’ll have plenty of discussions about consent. But beyond each of us making sure our kids are taught right, we have to find a way to change what’s happening outside our insular family walls. We have to stop this stigmatizing that makes so many girls and women afraid to report being raped.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here is what I know won’t help: Slut shaming, victim blaming, harassment, bullying, death threats, shunning, hiding away, name-calling, calling rape anything other than rape, making excuses, feeling badly, ignorance, apathy or hatred. It’s time we all step up, face the hot mess our society has become and make even the tiniest of efforts to effect change. Change begins with brave young girls (and their mothers) like Daisy and Paige coming forward, telling their stories even after they’ve been let down and shut down. It begins with investigative reports like The Kansas City Star’s and with campaigns by organizations like Anonymous. Change begins with people who spread the story through social media, and when the conversation is carried on by regular people, like us. As horrible and negative as some internet groups can be, so can others of us gather to be powerful and effective in a positive way. Change will happen when we refuse to accept that someone we know or love is likely to be raped in her lifetime; when we let it sink in that one of every six American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. Change will happen when we stop letting rapists get away with their crimes; when even these high school boys—held up in their respective towns as “sports heroes” or “young men with promising lives ahead of them”—are appropriately convicted and sentenced. Change can happen when in addition to parents fostering respect, children of a certain age understand exactly what rape is; when high schools, colleges and the military establish and publicize very clear standards of behavior and are committed to ongoing awareness education—when they give complete cooperation to law enforcement agencies. Change will happen when we know regardless of a person’s standing or athletic prowess, a rapist will be criminally prosecuted. Change can happen if we all stand behind girls like Daisy Coleman to let them know they are not alone.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Damn, I'm late. Some good comments, some other comments. Really liking emmalita's comments, as per usual. There were some others, but I'm too ass lazy to check. competitivenonfiction comes to mind, there were others but again about my laziness,

  • Tim Conard

    let me hear an "amen"!!!

  • Bananapanda

    One small point of order - the family was new to town because the father died and they had to downsize. So mom is a widow and mother of four.

  • Walt Jr

    What if it were 13 and 14 yr old boys that snuck out, drank and were raped and molested by other men? Yeah, let THAT sink in and tell me that the above video response would say the same thing.

  • Jon Miller

    Brilliant, Cindy. Thank you for writing and sharing this with us.

  • manting

    Nearly every girl Ive been close to in my life has had some sort of rape or sexual molestation event. This is WAY more prevalent then people think. The 18th century puritanical mindset still exists strongly concerning rape. Women are perceived as "asking for it" which is completely insane. It would be helpful if some male celebrity or athlete was raped and to see them have to answer questions about what they were wearing and how much they had to drink. It would open a lot of eyes.

  • Jack London

    A-fricken-men!

  • BlackRabbit

    I just want to know who's doing all the damn downvoting. If you disagree, speak up and be heard instead of stealth-arguing without showing your face.

  • Maddy

    I just watched that video and almost threw up in my mouth. Yeah, all those girls going around making up fake rape accusations, that totally happens all the time. GAHHHHH.

  • Maddy

    I have nothing particularly enlightening to say except I feel awful for this 14 year old girl and she is so brave to speak out about it. Am I missing something here - there is video evidence?!?! I don't care if they were drunk, I don't care what these girls were doing, it is in no way their fault that they were raped, and they do not deserve to be publicly humiliated as if they've done something wrong. I can't believe we live in a society where that needs to be said. FFS. I can't even with this shit.

  • Maguita NYC

    There are in fact videos of the rape, as well as audio/video taped confessions by the attackers.

    In Cindy's article she links to the Kansas Star's detailed peace that I believe you should fully read in order to grasp the enormity and monstrosity of Daisy Coleman's situation. Here is part of it pertaining to reactions after Daisy's mother took her to the hospital, and where in fact she had been told her daughter was raped:

    "By mid-afternoon Sunday, a search warrant for the Barnett home resulted in the seizure of a blanket, bedsheets, a pair of panties found on a bedroom floor, a bottle of Bacardi Big Apple and plastic bottles of unidentified liquids. The sheriff’s office also seized three cellphones, including the iPhone allegedly used by Zech.

    Sexual assault cases can be difficult to build because of factors such as a lack of physical evidence or inconsistent statements by witnesses. But by the time his department had concluded its investigation, Sheriff Darren White felt confident the office had put together a case that would “absolutely” result in prosecutions.

    “Within four hours, we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that,” White told The Star. “We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions.

    “I would defy the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department to do what we did and get it wrapped up as nicely as we did in that amount of time.”

    And then suddenly, months later, the charges were dropped.

  • kiniki

    The sentence "teach men not to rape" suggests that all men are potential rapists. I would imagine at no point in most guys lives have they had to be told not to rape, the thought of committing such an act has never occurred.

    Of course blame the rapists, but don't lump us all into the same boat. The fact is that there must be some kind of personality issue that is prevalent in these men.

  • emmalita

    'Teach men not to rape' is a response to the prevailing attitude, 'teach girls not to get raped.' It is an overly simplistic and provocative statement intended to lodge in the mind. It addresses some of the grayer areas, like date rape, or the frat boy who wrote a letter to his frat brothers telling them to shame girls into drinking and keep them drinking until they stop saying no. He said "don't rape." Apparently he doesn't know he's just written a manual on how to rape.

  • kiniki

    The article of course are correct, there is blame on the victim where there should be none.

    The thing that makes me sad is that more and more society turns all men into fearful characters not to be trusted. To the point where if a guy saw a young girl separated from her parents, he'd have to think twice about leading her by the hand and trying to help her find them.

    It's a shame that these people exist and a shame they cast such a large shadow

  • Monica

    And the thing that makes me sad is society turning women into fearful characters who cannot trust. To the point where if a young girl is separated from her parents, she'd have to think twice about asking for help for fear of signalling to every would-be attacker she's been taught is waiting for an opportunity just like that to grab, assault her, rape her now that she is separated from her parents.

  • emmalita

    I agree with you. It is a shame that a few spoil it for the rest of us. Most men, of all races are reasonably good people who aren't going to rape someone. Most women won't be raped. Almost all women are raised to believe that they are a rape victim in waiting. Boys and men don't deserve to feel like they are looked at as predators. Girls and women don't deserve to feel constantly unsafe. So let's change the conversation and talk about the rape statistics that actually exist and work forwards from there.

  • calliope1975

    Reading the posts on Project Unbreakable is heartbreaking, triggering, and needs to be seen by everyone who says we all know rape is bad, BUT...
    http://projectunbreakable.tumb...

    I scoffed when I heard people online say that the song of the summer "Blurred Lines" is rapey. Until I listened to the lyrics. And saw those "lyrics" on several of the PUB submission.

  • jamie

    I think in these discussions, its worth pointing to the work of David Lisak. His work has focused on finding the "hidden rapist" ie the unreported or unjailed. The average rapist rapes about 6 women and specifically uses drugs or alcohol to find their victim. http://www.npr.org/templates/s... They are responsible for 9 out of 10 rapes on college campuses.

  • Yo. Fuck Faux News.

  • I don't know why a contribution as helpful as this one is to the conversation at hand isn't rated higher. Misunderstood geniuses abound in society today, I guess.

  • That you could read this piece and come away with other than a sense of disgust for Fox News is as telling as it is concerning. Than you think it necessary to attack a purely emotional response to the levels of vitriol on display is saddening.

  • If I got my drawers in a bunch every time somebody somewhere said something stupid on television, I'd have no time to do anything else. So I generally don't bother.

    Also, giving organizations or people you dislike cutesy derogatory nicknames is childish and the only thing it accomplishes is to ensure that you're not taken seriously in any kind of adult discourse.

  • Again. Emotional response. I don't have to dislike them in a way you approve.

  • e jerry powell

    I can't even come up with words that are the right temperature. JUST SO WRONG for Yoffe to say that. And it's not good that I automatically revert to near-misogyny to say things about her than to formulate a more cogent analysis to address what she said as opposed to saying mean and generic things about her.

  • Having now READ Yoffe's articles - both of them - I need to add something. I don't think she was victim-blaming. In fact, I agree with everything she said. It's not "blaming the victim" or rationalizing rape or anything else of that sort to advise someone to be an adult and keep their wits about them, for the sake of their own well-being. The problem starts when someone IS raped and people evaluate the "legitimacy" of their claim/victimhood on what they did or didn't do to prevent the crime.

    So, here's the message I think we need to send (and the message I think Yoffe was TRYING to send): Self-protection - for anyone, of any age/gender - is a responsibility you have ONLY to yourself. You do NOT owe it to society, the police, the criminal justice system, the feminist movement, your family or ANYONE else, least of all your potential attackers, to prevent crime against yourself. If you manage that, then congrats - the reward is escaping attack, not gaining some moral high ground over someone else who didn't take the same steps you did.

    Now for the bad news: no matter WHAT you do, you may end up attacked anyway. And the moment that happens, whatever you did or didn't do to protect yourself is A MOOT FUCKING POINT. FULL STOP. The attacker's responsibility for his/her crime is IN NO WAY based on YOUR behavior or decision-making. No matter WHAT you did or didn't do, they STILL made the decision to attack you.

    So, yeah, to the young women (AND men) of the world, we SHOULD be saying, "Be smart. Take care of yourself. Try to prevent horrible things from happening to yourself and your friends - things like accidental drowning, alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis, puke-scented hair, and yes, violence at the hand of others." To the police, campus authorities, hospitals, rape crisis centers, parents, and ourselves, we should be saying, "What steps they take, they take for themselves, not for us. It is OUR job not to differentiate, and to prosecute holy hell out of rapists no matter WHAT their victim did or didn't do."

    Trying to survive "the world that is" does not make you less deserving of "the world that should be."

  • emmalita

    Your last sentence is beautiful. Just eloquent and beautiful.

  • Parker

    Tinderbox discussion.

    I believe realistic conversation needs to happen on this. Rape is disgusting, barbaric, and horrible. It is indefensible. Can one teach minimizing risk and being careful while at the same time fully condemning the rapist for his absolutely despicable act of violation? Yeah, and you have to.

    Lock your doors at night. Lock your car when going through a bad neighborhood. Teach kids not to talk to strangers. Don't wear rival gang colors in gang territory. Don't walk down dark alleys alone at night. THESE are things we teach and preach in order to minimize risk to ourselves and our loved ones. Is that so we can blame the victim if they ignore such warnings and do those risky things anyway? NO. We cannot control a criminal's mind. We cannot control a rapist's behavior. We cannot eliminate criminal actions or violence done to others. So therefore, what can we do? Safeguard ourselves. Those conversations have to continue, while coming down on the perpetrators with full and relentless justice, and never letting them off the hook in terms of where the responsibility lies for THEIR hideous conduct.

    Blame is retroactive. Prevention is a far, far better thing to achieve, and since we cannot seem to eliminate the evil in humanity that brings them to rape, as well as to murder and steal and other such offensive crimes, we must be savvy and vigilant over ourselves and our loved ones.

  • emmalita

    I think the difference is that we are more willing to find and hold the perpetrators of murder and theft accountable. People will always do horrible things to one another. But when the crime is murder, the default isn't to look at what the victim did to encourage being murdered. Sometimes, in cases of murder and theft, the narrative becomes about the victim. When the crime is rape, the discussion is usually about the victim and whether or not they encouraged their attacker. Let's get the discussion about rape on par with the discussion about murder - who did it and how they can be stopped before they rape again - before we start bewailing the evilness of the human condition.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I think the difference is that we are more willing to find and hold the perpetrators of murder and theft accountable.

    Exactly. I don't know why women (and men) everywhere are not storming the streets demanding justice against rapists, as well as better treatment for their victims.

  • Uriah_Creep

    But I also have a young son, and of all the things we try to instill in
    him, kindness toward and respect for other people are at the top of the
    list. Before I ever worry about any of them ingesting alcohol, I’ll do my damnedest to make sure they understand what the word “No” means, and we’ll have plenty of discussions about consent.

    I don't know why all prospective parents aren't tested on these common sense concepts. They should have to prove that they will adhere to them before reproducing.

  • savannahofaus

    Great article. Like many others here I am incredibly sick and tired of the argument that if a woman has been drinking, she is somehow partially responsible for getting raped.

    I'm going to share my story. Three years ago, I went to a party with a friend. There were free drinks and yes, I consumed a little too much. A friend of a friend flirted with me all night and I agreed to go back to his place. I wanted to hang out with him some more but was quite clear to him before we left that I didn't want to have sex. He said he was okay with that.

    I ended up falling into a drunken sleep. He then decided that was the perfect time to take advantage of me. I remember mumbling "no" several times. I had said "no" before he even began. When he was finished, he kicked me out. I stumbled to a taxi feeling used and dirty and like I was worth nothing.

    I never reported it. It took me two years to even be able to talk about it. Precisely because of bullshit arguments such as "well you left the keys in the car, what did you expect?" Yes, I made a poor decision and I've spent a lot of time blaming myself. However, I still don't think that means I'm somehow responsible for this excuse for a man deciding to violate me when I was incapable of fighting him off, after I had said "no" multiple times.

  • manting

    on behalf of my sex I apologize and my thoughts are with you.

  • savannahofaus

    Thanks manting, I really appreciate that.

  • emmalita

    I'm really sorry that happened to you. It wasn't your fault. I have done the exact same thing and not been raped. I hope you feel like you are worth something again.

  • savannahofaus

    Thanks emmalita. I'm okay. It took time, but I now know it was not my fault. I am lucky in that I know loads of wonderful men who would never behave that way and who have looked after me in similar situations.

    I decided to share my story as there is still so much "gray area" in people's minds about rape, as others have pointed out far more eloquently than me on this thread. I never told anyone about it until recently because of that gray area and because I know I will be judged as responsible by certain people. But hopefully, maybe this will help someone else who may have had the same thing happen to them.

    The really sad thing is, I've still only told a handful on people in "real life". Australia can be just as unforgiving as the States.

  • Salieri2

    Who downvotes this?

  • chanohack

    The phantom downvotes in this thread are disgustingly cowardly.

  • competitivenonfiction

    The jackass who went through the thread and downvoted everyone.

  • Salieri2

    It's an impressively petty dedication; I feel proud to have evoked an erg's worth of energy from his downvoting mouse finger.

  • Yossarian

    There has to be a better way to have these conversations.

    There has to be a way to talk to women and girls about risk and harm and danger and safety. I understand the points you're trying to make but I can't accept the knee-jerk negative reaction that gets made against any effort to have that conversation. I think you are fighting an ideological battle against the idea that women have a responsibility to prevent or avoid rape but ignoring the real world harm that could be lessened with lowered risk.

    I have a daughter and there is no way I'm not going to do everything in my power to make sure she is aware of the bad things that are out there, how to identify them, how to avoid them, how to respond to them, and how to keep herself safe. Responsible drinking is just one of the many, many things we are going to discuss.

    And not in a "just say no and it won't happen to you" way but as honestly and realistically as I can. If, god forbid, something ever happens, whatever it is, it's not your fault. Bad things can happen no matter what, no matter how good or responsible you are. Just like cancer and car accidents. But that doesn't mean we don't try to reduce risk.

    Society is fucked up. Always has been and it's not going to magically get better overnight. We need to be safer immediately. We need to try to gradually improve society over time. I think the "teach boys not to rape" message is incredibly important and needs to be repeated as much as possible. Teach consent in every sex ed class and school orientation everywhere. But I don't think it needs to be linked with the "don't teach girls how to avoid rape" message. There has to be a better way to have this conversation. There has to be a way to say that rape is always wrong and never the victim's fault and still acknowledge that there are ways to decrease the risk of rape. We have to decouple those ideas and throw half of that protest sign away. Because we still have to teach girls how to decrease their risk of rape.

    I'm not going to defend Emily Yoffe or anyone else in these comments. But I think some of these people are trying to help and trying to find a way to say something that is important and I don't think it is helpful to simply shout them down and tell them they are wrong. This issue is too important. Telling people with good intentions that they are wrong and stupid is not helpful. There has to be a better way to have this conversation. And those of you who are leading the conversation need to help them find it and be more tolerant of the obviously true idea that teaching people how to be safer is not a bad thing (it's just not the only thing).

    edit -- which is not to say that all the other comments here are bad. Lots of good ideas and good points are brought up in these discussions. I learn a lot from them. And plenty of people do make this point in a more nuanced way that accepts the balance I'm trying to describe.

  • emmalita

    I think what people on this thread are responding to is how much the rape conversation focuses on what girls did wrong instead of focusing on what is wrong with the people protecting the rapist/s. Obviously people need to raise their children to understand the world that exists. But, I think we need to re-focus our conversation about rape to reflect the realities of rape.

  • Yossarian

    I understand that and I agree with that. I even understand that re-focusing the conversation requires a certain amount of forceful/ uncompromising/ extreme action to accomplish it. You need to push people out of their comfort zone if you want social change. I support that change.

    I just think there is a point where ideology gets in the way of efficacy. There is a huge, huge difference between Emily Yoffe and Joseph DiBenedetto. When you attack both of them under the same headline you make it harder to see that distinction.

    I understand the idea that when we talk about behaviors that increase or decrease the risk of being raped we place the onus on the victim and invite the "well, what did she do to put her self in that situation?" questions. It implies that women who are raped somehow put themselves in that position. But that doesn't mean we can't talk about it all. We just have to talk about it better. We can make it explicit that rape is never ok, and never the victim's fault, and can never be 100% prevented and still address personal safety and risk avoidance.

    We can't pretend that it just doesn't matter, or that it's not effective. And no one here seems to truly think that it doesn't matter. Everyone seems to be able to admit that, yeah, of course we are going to teach our kids to be safe. So why is it so off limits in public? Why can it only be a vague offhand mention with no specifics? We can't it be something we find a way to talk about openly? And why is there so much hostility to people who try to actually talk about it?

    I just think there has to be a better way. To be uncompromising about victim blaming and shaming and failing to hold rapists accountable and to fight back against the "well what did she think was going to happen?" bullshit and still not be afraid or unable to talk openly about safety and risk and prevention. It boggles my mind that the people who are the most passionate about rape and rape prevention make something this important so toxic and off limits.

  • Anna von Beav

    Yoss, you know I have the utmost respect for you as a human being and as a father, and so I say this from a place of respect.

    Over half of sexual assaults are not reported. Do you want to know why I didn't report mine? Because afterwards, while intellectually I knew it wasn't my fault, on an emotional level, from reading newspapers and seeing reports on the news, I knew it MUST HAVE been something I failed to do to protect myself. Because every discussion, every report, is centered around what the victim was wearing, where she was, who she was with, was she drunk or doing drugs, what time of day it was, whether she said no, whether she fought back. It is ALWAYS about what you *should have done* or *shouldn't have done*. "Why," I asked myself, "didn't I kick him in the nuts and run?" That made me *feel* like it was my fault, even though I knew logically that it wasn't.

    And why *didn't* I kick him and run, you might ask? Because when I was in the process of being sexually assaulted, and again I can only speak for myself, my brain shut down. All of the things I was taught, all of the being aware of my surroundings, did nothing to prevent it. Nothing. I went into a sort of state of shock. And although that was almost 30 years ago, I can still remember thinking to myself, "what is happening?" I froze. And then I assumed blame. And then I felt guilty because I GUARANTEE that I was not the only girl that happened to. And again: I was 15. It was the middle of the day. I wasn't wearing anything "slutty." I wasn't drunk or on drugs. I was in the middle of my suburban town, at the laundromat.

    THAT'S why it provokes such a knee-jerk. And that's why it's a dangerous conversation. In my mind, logically, it just perpetuates the cycle.

  • Maguita NYC

    Even grown-ass warriors who have had a lifetime training for battle, are known to suddenly shutdown and freeze when it is time for action.

    So when a 15 year-old girl freezes and her brain shuts down in shock because she is being raped, it is more than understandable and only the lowliest of shit would say otherwise.

    The problem is still to this day the level of personal responsibility we've instilled in girls when it comes to their bodies, and how we hold them unfairly accountable to what is done To their bodies.

  • emmalita

    I was about to say much of what AngelenoEwok was going to say. Everywoman I know has been told how to avoid being raped.

    The point I am trying to make is that the larger conversation about rape needs to stop leaping first to what women can do to reduce their risk. The first larger policy oriented conversation needs to be about why we aren't holding rapists accountable. Victims of rape should not have to prove their sainthood before they can be certified as victims of rape. When the cultural conversation about rape centers on what women should and shouldn't do, it allows the people who shield rapists to continue deflecting accountability.

    I think you are a good parent because you want to teach your children how to be safe. But outside of our individual homes and families, we need to look at the bigger picture. When will we blame the rapist?

  • AngelenoEwok

    When you are part of a population that targeted by rapists, discussions of safety are NOT off limits -- they're omnipresent. The threat of rape and advice/instructions/platitudes about how avoid rape (what not to ingest, who not to talk to, what not to wear, where not to go) are a constant refrain in my life, and have been for as long as I can remember being old enough to understand speech. I still got raped.

  • Kate at June

    No one talked to me about that stuff. I learned it all myself after my assault. Granted, it would have made 0 difference in the situation or in how I would have conducted myself, but still--not everyone IS having conversations about safety and threats.

    My older sister told me once to be careful drinking at parties because you might do things with boys under the influence that you wouldn't normally. That's the closest I got to a talk about any of this. Its actually pretty fucked up that no one broached the topic of safety with me, given other shit that happened to me as a child, but my parents are very good at avoiding anything slightly uncomfortable so there you go.

    NOW all I hear are discussions on how to be safe, which I 100% agree should not be the first point brought up in the national conversation about rape as it always is.

    Still, I think its important to emphasize to children and teenagers and young adults that they need to be aware of personal safety measures that they can take--in life in general, and specifically to decrease their chances of sexual assault.

    ETA: When I'm talking about safety concerns and prevention, I'm talking about learning to stay with friends, make sure you have someone looking out for you at a party and especially if you intend to drink to excess, avoid certain areas late at night, learn self defense, etc.

    I am NOT talking about telling people not to DRESS a certain way or ACT a certain way or to not EVER drink to drunkenness.

    One is teaching preventative measures, the other is unequivocally victim blaming.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I never thought that your original comment advocated victim-blamey rape prevention advice, but that does make me want to clarify: I grew up with a lot of safety instructions from adults and authority figures about how to keep myself from being abused or kidnapped or the victim of any kind of violence. Lots of it was good stuff like you describe; the suggestion to use a buddy system, don't open the door for people you don't know, my mom put me in a basic karate class, etc.

    However, I ALSO heard, and continue to constantly hear, stuff that is either blatantly victim blaming, or based on not so solid or debunked data, or, honestly, straight up based in the idea that men are rampaging beasts who can't stop themselves from raping.

    Now, at 30, I can think critically and consider sources and weigh what's sensible and what's baloney. But as a very, very young girl, I think these mixed messages (from adults that I *know* believed they were being helpful and looking out for me) a) created a culture of fear that I lived in before I was even attacked and b) worsened my trauma afterwards. I had stuck to the smart rules and the bogus rules, and it didn't even matter. Years later, I can look back and know that's some serious just-world-fallacy thinking, but at the time that was just all too much to unpack.

  • Yossarian

    Maybe I'm not saying this right. And maybe I should admit right upfront that I don't know what I'm talking about and I have very little experience with any of this except for what I read online. As I said above, my only entry point is that I'm a human being and I'm raising a little girl. So I'm invested, I care. I'm the farthest thing from an expert.

    But I read your comment about all the "advice/ instructions/ platitudes" and your follow up comment about being able to "think critically and consider sources and weigh what's sensible and what's baloney" now that you're 30 and I feel like that's exactly the point I'm trying to make. That there is a bad way to talk about this stuff and a better way to talk about this stuff and I haven't seen the better way.

    And I'm not the target audience and I'm not completely plugged in to the circles that talk about this stuff so maybe I just don't know. (Then again, if I don't know how many other people don't know? I'm at least friends with and curious about these circles.) I see lots of viral blog posts about sexism and rape culture and double standards and empowerment and other feminist issues and they get shared and reblogged and linked and supported and expounded upon and sometimes criticized and refined but it is usually part of a positive discussion. It's great.

    But when it comes to ways to protect yourself from sexual assault and rape there seems to be a tendency to shut down any discussion and attack anyone trying to talk about it. And I understand why it's such a charged issue and I get the harmfulness of allowing that to become the default way we view it (what did or didn't she do?) and I am all for making the focal point of every discussion that there is no excuse or mitigating circumstances when it comes to rape.

    But isn't there something that you or someone else would say to girls that would cut through the bullshit and separate the good information from the bad and reinforce the idea that you can never be 100% safe and it is never your fault if you are raped or assaulted but there are things you ought to be aware of? Honest, accurate statistical information about circumstances and variables within your control that can lower the risk? Not eliminate the risk and not burden you with the responsibility of not getting raped but just helpful honest information?

    Because the blog posts advocating safety and risk avoidance and caution when drinking get torn apart but I don't see another, better blog post take their place. If there's good advice I'd like to know it. I'm going to have to help my own daughter soon and somehow manage to encourage her and support her going out into the world and becoming independent while also staying safe and I can't wait around for us to end rape culture and teach all the boys everywhere not to rape before I let her out of the house on her own. Because she can't wait that long. She's got shit to do.

  • Kate at June

    (Yeah, I didn't think I was coming off that way, but when people do victim blame and couch in in discussions of safety, they tend to lump all those things together. Blergh..)

    God, its so different for everyone, isn't it? The bigger pill for me to swallow, arguably bigger than my assault itself, was the knowledge that the world was fucked up and there were evil people out there. I feel like if someone had really clued me into that earlier, I might have been a little better prepared to deal with the fall out.

    As it was, I was taught that we had 'equality' now and the only stranger danger things I head about essentially amounted to the boogey man.

    I can't say that I heard a lot of victim blaming stuff before my assault but it is sure as shit all we seem to hear now.

  • Lisa

    Damn it!! I'm so fucking sick of "what did she think was going to happen?" thought process. Like most men have no choice but to rape if they see a drunk girl? That if you are drunk you will most likely be raped? What kind of idiotic crap is that?

    When i first moved out on my own I would go to bars by myself and sometimes get drunk and hang out with some men I didn't know at my place or theirs and while this was very, very, very stupid- at no point did these men force themselves on me in anyway. (we would make out and I would stop it before we had sex) (again, STUPID) Now,maybe I was just lucky- but I think what it says is that the average guy is not going to become a rapist just because of alcohol.

    So, when rape happens-please stop treating it like something that is expected and that guys "just can't help themselves"

  • Amen. It boils down to this: if you stumbled out of a bar and someone mugged/purse-snatched/kidnapped/assaulted/murdered you, THAT would not be considered less of a crime. The "gray area" around rape comes from seeing it as a violent variation on sex instead of just a sexualized version of violence. Rape is only "different" from other crimes if you buy into the idea that it's a nice girl's job to say no and a MAN's job to turn it into yes (or at least, "Oh, ALRIGHT"). At that point, how much or how loudly she said no becomes just a question of degree....ergo, GRAY.

    Until we learn as a society that NO - whether it's an outright refusal or a lack of consent - is a final answer, and not a starting point or meaningless "good girl's disclaimer" - we're going to keep hearing this bullshit, tragically, from the very people we elect and pay to hold criminals responsible.

  • Nimue

    This line is perfect. The problem is seein rape as a violent variation on sex rather than a sexulaized version of violence. I really like the way you stated this.

  • I actually did stumble out of a bar drunk and got mugged. I did the best I could under the circumstances, but I got my ass -whooped-. I looked like a mushed banana by the time they were done. Hell, my nose and my jaw are still a little crooked from it and it's been thirteen years.

    Not once during all the clean up and the police reports did anyone say 'you shouldn't have been drunk, dumbass' or 'guess you shouldn't have dressed like you had money' or 'guess you should have fought harder' But what's funny(in a not funny at all sort of way)is that a co-worker's roommate got assaulted and raped in the same general area about three months later. Variations of those same questions surfaced almost right away even though she brought it on herself the same way I did, which is to say not at all.

  • shoebox

    That "if you were drunk and somebody mugged you" argument is really good. I am going to steal that.

  • pfeiffer87

    One of the worse things I have ever read was that email that frat boy wrote to his fellow male students on dating/banging techniques constantly reminding them 'remember bros don't rape!' - like why the hell do they need to be told, isn't that obvious??

  • letsspoon

    Isn't the whole point of this article that it's not obvious?

  • pfeiffer87

    Read this not long ago:

    'Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be
    raped or sexually assaulted than the average American woman, 86% of
    these violent acts are committed by non-Native men. Additionally, a U.S.
    DOJ study found that over 34% of American Indian and Alaska Native
    women will be raped in their lifetime.'

    So yeah a lot of vile f*cks out there. We should all keep writing, talking about this subject however depressing and awful it makes us feel. Until the collective drown out the voices of the pricks who preach a message of victim blame then we've gotta keep at it. Also - videoing it. I can't find words.

  • Theron

    We all hate rapists. But they, like carjackers, unfortunately exist (not comparing the two as equal, just using them in the same type of logic). Drink responsibly and lock your car doors - because assholes are out there.

  • meadowdancer

    This is the most inane stupid thing I have ever heard. I was raped by someone I considered a best friend at the time. He was horny and I said no and apparently me crying like a girl about it afterwards (his words) made him not in the mood to be my friend after the fact. It's a dumb thought to say that drinking leads to rape. Rape happens all the time, in the daylight, at night during all hours of the day. It's like when people would be so shocked that people could be assaulted at any time instead of at night in a sketchy neigborhood.

  • Salieri2

    Does drinking responsibly mean I'm less likely to be raped?

  • Martin Holterman

    I would imagine it does. It makes you less likely to do dumb things and more likely to scream at any would-be rapist, for one.

  • Dumily

    Your imagination is irrelevant.

  • Kate at June

    In many instances, fear silences you--alcohol doesn't matter.

    If you are being assaulted by someone then any impression you had of them flies out the window. If they are capable of doing something this evil to you, who's to say that they wouldn't also be capable of beating you? killing you? And holy hell if your rapist is someone you've never met before--doubly terrifying.

    When victims don't yell for help its usually because we are more worried about staying FUCKING ALIVE. Self preservation instincts are damn near impossible to overcome.

  • sjfromsj

    This will likely be a controversial viewpoint to share, but Anna von Beav's story makes me think about the conditions of rape and victim blaming. I think the vast majority of people will argue that she in fact did nothing to bring rape upon herself, so she is allowed to feel violated and is not being scrutinized in the larger conversation. It's just like women who get abortions because it was medically necessary or any other reason people think is "legitimate". Speaking ill of the procedure because some women get it because they just don't want a baby is what brings on mandated restrictions that ultimately make it harder for every woman, including the women who have a "legitimate reason", to receive the federally legal procedure. And while you may just be talking smack on women you don't think deserve it because they did not make all of the right choices to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, the negative comments have an affect on all women who have had an abortion. You can't pick and choose to whom your scrutiny is directed when you put it out in the open. The same thing applies to victims of sexual assault: No matter if everyone will agree that the assault can be completely blamed on the attacker and not the victim, even a conditional scrutiny will still be taken personally by that victim. We should concentrate more of our time on making sure it is safe for victims to come forward and report assaults instead of deciding who is allowed to feel violated. No one wants to be raped like no one wants to be in the position to decide whether or not to get an abortion.

  • emmalita

    Beautifully put.

  • mograph

    Are most of these cases perpetrated by boys who are a member of a group, boys whose status within the group is elevated by performing this act?

    ... just trying to see if there's another way in to solving this problem. If a boy were ostracized or shunned within his group for raping a girl, he would think twice before trying it.

    (Yes, I know it's illegal and immoral, but social forces within a group are often more powerful than laws or mores.)

  • emmalita

    http://www.whiteribbon.ca/

    White Ribbon Campaign is a men preventing gender-based violence organization. NateMan posted a link to the organization a few weeks ago.

    I told this story a few weeks ago on a similar-ish thread: when I was in college, there was a house known as the party house. The 19 - 22 yr old guys who lived in the house made it clear that rape or "taking advantage" of drunk girls was not ok. So yes, when boys and men let it be known that it isn't ok, it happens less frequently. It takes away the patina of acceptability.

  • competitivenonfiction

    Years ago I saw this great Henry Rollin's show and he talked about exactly this. Men will be the ones who stop violence against women. Men need to say "you can't play basketball with us because you hit your wife" "you're not fucking welcome at this party because we know what you did and it's not ok." It was amazing and enlightening. And so long as we're making excuses for rapists, decent guys aren't going to exert the kind of social pressure they need to exert, because they'll be afraid of getting into the kind of scrapes we see in comment sections like this.

  • Maguita NYC

    Just because we can always love him more!

  • Salieri2

    [This is not aimed at any particular people on this thread, it just seemed like a good place to drop some history.]

    "I don't believe that rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It's not because there's a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.

    We do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity. We cannot do it anymore. We have always tried. We have been repaid with systematic exploitation and systematic abuse. You are going to have to do this yourselves from now on and you know it.

    The shame of men in front of women is, I think, an appropriate response both to what men do do and to what men do not do. I think you should be ashamed. But what you do with that shame is to use it as an excuse to keep doing what you want and to keep not doing anything else; and you've got to stop. You've got to stop. Your psychology doesn't matter. How much you hurt doesn't matter in the end any more than how much we hurt matters. If we sat around and only talked about how much rape hurt us, do you think there would have been one of the changes that you have seen in this country in the last fifteen years? There wouldn't have been.

    It is true that we have to talk to each other. How else, after all, were we supposed to find out that each of us was not the only woman in the world not asking for it to whom rape or battery had ever happened? We couldn't read it in the newspapers, not then. We couldn't find a book about it. But you do know and now the question is what are you going to do; and so your shame and your guilt are very much beside the point. They don't matter to us at all, in any way. They're not good enough. They don't do anything." --Andrea Dworkin, 30 years ago.

    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACL...

  • Given that she tends to tar with a unreasonably wide brush, I'm not sure that Andrea Dworkin would be all that helpful in a conversation like this.

  • Salieri2

    Though in my personal opinion: if a man can't stand up to the kind of scrape that is being on the wrong side on an essentially anonymous internet conversation, how am I supposed to expect him to stand up to his peers in real life when, for example, a woman whose crime is wearing a strapless gown outdoors is described as "ho-ing it up?" [Saw this yesterday. Where I see a young woman who's invested in evening wear but not an appropriate coat yet, my co-worker sees a slut. Thanks, guy.]

  • Anna von Beav

    This appalling string of comments down here is EXACTLY why pieces like this need to keep being written, Cindy. Because people don't even understand that they are, in fact, blaming the victim. And shaming the victim. I was 12 years old when my parents taught me that saying "I'm sorry, *but*" means you're not sorry at all. When are people going to learn that saying "I'm not blaming the victim, *but*" means you are ABSOLUTELY blaming the victim? This is PRECISELY why less than half of rapes are reported. LESS THAN HALF.

    EDIT TO ADD TRIGGER WARNING

    You are all of course aware that rape and other forms of sexual assault do not only happen to women who are drunk, right? What exactly would you tell 15-year-old me, the day I walked to the laundromat in the town center to look for my friend whose mom worked there, and instead of finding her, was sexually assaulted, in a laundromat, in the middle of the afternoon, by the 60-year-old man who ran the place? Do you want to know what I was wearing? Cotton pedal-pushers with a sailboat print and a t-shirt. Do you want to know what I was drinking? Absolutely nothing. Do you want to know what I did to deserve having my pants pulled down and my 15-year-old virgin vagina fingered and my 15-year-old clitoris licked? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Here's the thing, though: continuing to see stories in print like Yoffe's only once again reinforces the notion that women who dress or behave certain ways *DO*, in fact, deserve blame. It also diminishes the fact that women DON'T DESERVE TO BE ASSAULTED. EVER. FOR ANY REASON. Because I GUARANTEE that rape and assault DON'T ONLY HAPPEN to girls that are 14 or 15 or 18 or 22 or 30 or 40 or 50 OR EIGHTY FOUR. It doesn't only happen to girls who are promiscuous or girls who are prudes. It doesn't only happen at 1 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. It doesn't only happen when a 60-year-old man decides he wants a little somethin' somethin' from an underage girl and takes it and it doesn't only happen when a bunch of boys decide to get a couple of girls drunk and then MAKE THE DECISION to violate them, and then MAKE THE DECISION to DUMP THEM IN THE MOTHERFUCKING SNOW. So all y'all who think those FOURTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS brought it on themselves, which is EXACTLY THE SAME THING as blaming the victim, can go FUCK YOURSELVES.

  • Uriah_Creep

    You couldn't see it, Anna von Beav, but I gave you a standing ovation for telling your story and making some kind of sense out of it. Thank you.

  • emmalita

    I just gave your standing ovation a standing ovation.

  • emmalita

    Thank you for highlighting the phrase MAKE THE DECISION. There is a tremendous difference between making the decision to drink, or drink too much, making the decision to break the rules and go over to a boy's house, and making the decision to rape two girls and leave them in the snow to be found or not. Two of those decisions have likely consequences that range from innocent to deadly, and one of them has nothing but ugly consequences. There is no context in which making the decision rape two girls is "just fun for everyone."

  • competitivenonfiction

    Thank you so much for saying this and for having the guts to put it in print online. You absolutely did not deserve what happened to you - no one ever ever deserves to have this happen to them. Ever.

  • Maguita NYC

    I fucking agree with you and adore your fucking awesome ovaries of brass Anna Von Beav!

  • Iron

    No one is saying "but" they are saying the world is a terribly shitty place and while you shouldn't have to think about how much you're drinking, its smart to do so. As someone said above there is a big difference between "don't drink too much tonight" and "why were you drinking so much?"

    No one is saying they brought it on themselves.
    No one is saying that anyone besides the rapist is to blame
    There are no buts or ifs, just a suggestion that you basically keep your wits about you out there cause the world is a dangerous place.

  • Anna von Beav

    You've missed the point entirely: Assault also happens when no one is drinking. And when you *do* have your wits about you.

    Alcohol IS NOT THE PROBLEM. Not among young girls, not among college girls, not among women over 25. (Although I don't recall any reports stating whether the 84 year old woman who was raped in the middle of the afternoon in Central Park was drunk.) ALCOHOL IS NOT THE PROBLEM. Acceptance is the problem. Victim blaming is the problem. "No one is saying "but" *BUT* the world is a shitty place" is the problem. Suggestions TO WOMEN to 'avoid being raped' are the problem. Canonizing boys who gang rape girls is the problem.

    Look, I don't want to start a fight with you personally; I am fucking angry because this has gone on long enough. Saying "maybe watch how much you drink at this party you're going to" is, in fact, EXACTLY THE SAME THING as later saying "oh, well, maybe you shouldn't have been drinking so much." I'm just trying to make you understand that it's the same damn thing. And that saying "the rapist is to blame *BUT* maybe you shouldn't have been drinking so much" is, in fact, victim blaming. Much like comparing a woman wearing a short skirt to "flashing a Rolex or a car in a rough neighborhood" is a sign that you need rehabilitation in order to become a human being in a civilized society. (Again, and especially on that last, I'm not talking about you personally, Iron.)

  • ,

    Anna,

    We've been online friends for a long time and I am truly sorry for what happened to you. I entirely get your background for your viewpoint.

    Still, I'm coming out of retirement to disagree with you, knowing the risk that entails to the comment relationship we have built over the years, but I only have about 15 minutes to make points (coincidentally, I'm going out drinking), so I might have to continue this later. Hopefully, we have enough respect for each other that we can turn this into a dialogue and you won't automatically shut me down for saying this:

    "ALCOHOL IS NOT THE PROBLEM"

    You are right, it is not THE problem. This whole topic is fraught with problems. BUT (sorry) alcohol for one IS a problem. Did you read the Yoffe articles? A BIG problem. We can't ignore that side of the equation, pretend everything everybody does is always OK. I think it probably makes more sense to try to deal with rational people rationally that to try educating and reasoning with and altering the behavior of socio- and psychopaths, such as described here:

    "rape happens because one human being has no respect for another human being. Inside a rapist’s head there is something that says, “What I want is
    more important than what you want; in fact, it’s more important than you, so I’m just going to take what I want.”

    We can't pre-emptively put them all in prison,. unfortunately; we have to wait until they commit crimes. But by then, for someone or for a lot of someones, the damage has been done.

    Anyway, I think the problem with Cindy's post is that she's run together two opinions on the issue, one of which seems entrely reasonably and realistic (Yoffe) and one that seems entirely horseshit (DeBenedetto), and people are confusing the messages ...

    Well, I have to go now. Mrs. , is calling.

  • Anna von Beav

    Aw, BD, you're my friend and I certainly don't want to shut you down. It absolutely needs to be a constructive dialogue, not shouting and name calling. It's a fairly sensitive topic, of course, so that's going to happen at times. And of course there's going to be disagreement.

    Listen, I understand, theoretically, the *instinct* to say "well maybe if people didn't drink so much," but then the same people turn around and say "but the world is a shitty place and people are going to rape." People are also going to drink. Drinking is legal. Rape is a crime. You can't say that a legal activity is something that people should stop doing and then turn around and say that a crime is something that's just going to keep happening. And, actually, it's mainly women that have to stop engaging in the legal behvior, according to Yoffe; I did read the article, and it still places the onus for not being raped on women ("But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them"), and goes on to say that guys are all just hanging around *not* getting drunk waiting for women to get drunk enough to be rape-able. It also ignores individual body chemistry and the fact that sometimes you don't realize how much you've drunk or how drunk you are until it's too late, especially in a party atmosphere. (EDIT:) It also fails to take into account that these are kids, coming out of high school, many of whom may have had a miserable time and don't realize they are overcompensating by trying to be "cool" now. Perhaps the real issue should be teaching kids not to disrespect each other at a much younger age; I'd think that would automatically lower both binge drinking rates and rape rates.

    That's what's wrong with this picture, IMO. And as I said to Yossarian above, it perpetuates the cycle of assaults not being reported, because it makes a victim automatically say to herself, "where did *I* fail? What did *I* do or not do?" even if the answer to that, as in my case, is "not a goddamn thing." It makes it seem like drunk women are the only women who get raped, and that isn't the case at all. It also seems to reinforce the message that all men are potential rapists, and that's something I don't think anyone wants, either.

    I adore you even when we disagree, and I hope you have a lovely day with the Mrs.

  • ,

    Thanks much, Anna. I DID have a lovely time. Really good wings and onion rings, and a couple good beers, and now we're back home.

    Here are some things I thought about in the meantime. They're not necessarily connected in any way, or to what you wrote, except in the largest picture, but here goes:

    1. "Drinking is legal. Rape is a crime."

    Rape is a crime, but drinking is legal ONLY for people over 21. That excludes most people in college and everyone in high school. Underage drinking is, technically, a crime, and I don't think there's nearly enough education/discouragement in that area. (I drank underage, for sure, but FWIW NEVER to the point of being blackout drunk. For one thing, I have a small bladder and knew I would end up in the bathroom more than on the floor. For another, I was cheap. For a third, I hated the cool kid parties.) We should be doing everything we can to discourage underage drinking, by everybody, PERIOD, but how has that worked? But saying "Kids will be kids, they're gonna do it anyway" as a rite of passage is, in my POV, kind of chickenshit, true though it may be. In its stead, we can try to encourage responsible drinking by young adults, but ESPECIALLY by girls. Because until society and the justice system get turned around (not likely in what's left of my lifetime), they're the ones who have the most to lose. And I think that's what Yoffe was trying to do. She shouldn't be excoriated for it.

    2. Someone in the comments below advocated negative peer pressure for guys, and that would be terrific if it would actually work. Making sure 17-year-old boys know, "Hey, touching that girl when she says No, taking advantage of drunk girls, that's NOT cool. You'll be shunned in school, shunned by the football team, shunned by the cool kids," that's all well and good. But so would girls making sure their peers know, hey, if you want to hang with the cool chicks and meet the best boys, DON'T sneak out to parties and get blackout drunk. That's NOT what the cool kids do." So maybe 13-year-olds wouldn't feel the need so much to sneak out of the house and get wasted.

    Not that I ever expect that to happen much, because a) hormones, and b) we know what the "Just say no" kid crowd gets labeled: The goody-goodies. How many of you Pajiba ladies would rather hang out with the goody-goodies than the bad boys? Culture has to change on both sides: Guys need to know that molesting (or worse) girls is NOT cool, but girls ALSO need their peers -- to whom they might actually listen, as opposed to parents -- to reinforce the notion that sneaking out to parties and blotto drinking is NOT gonna get you the cool guys.

    3. And really, what are we talking about here? How many teen guys abuse and molest helpless girls? How many teen girls get blackout drunk? I mean, I know some do, but don't the vast, vast majority of teens and young adults already know this and behave themselves? I think they probably do. They're not the ones who need to be preached at and reached at. So to say "Boys need to be taught ..." Well, a few of them do, but most of them already know what the limits are. And most girls (I hope) already know what the limits are. We're taking a handful of (admittedly horrific) cases here -- Steubenville, Maryville -- and treating them as the norm, when the reason we focus on them is because they're so far outside the norm. (And yes, I'm aware that there are likely many atrocities that don't get nearly the attention, if they get reported at all.) I'm thinking that the vast majority of teens and young adults are smart and responsible people. The rest -- I dunno. Is it like trying to discourage people from smoking, or getting them to wear seatbelts? Everybody knows this is generally best for everyone, but there's always about a 20 percent segment of the population that ignores what they know is good for them anyway. How do you reach these people, boys and girls?

    Which leads me to this:

    4. I am not excusing boys with this one, and I am not particularly proud: I am simply telling you what some boys are like. From when I was a teenager through college and a few years after, I would almost literally fuck anything with a hole. I didn't set out to get girls drunk or high to lay them, but it certainly didn't hurt if it greased the skids, so to speak. My dick led me. I was, probably, semisociopathic that way.

    Fortunately for me, I grew up and out of it. I have been faithfully married for 30 years. I've been a responsible dad to a daughter for 28 of them. I encouraged her take a self-defense class before she went to college. I encouraged her to have fun but also to make smart choices and stay out of places and activities where she didn't belong.

    Because I was a teenage boy once. I know what we can be like.
    ---
    This is a really, really complex issue to solve, and I only barely brushed a few topics, I was just RUI (Riffing Under the Influence), but I hope this furthers the dialogue a little, even for people who disagree with me. Maybe especially them.

    Thanks, especially to you, AvB. PFF (Pajiba Friends Forever)

  • Iron

    I appreciate your civility and hear what you say. You are, of course, right on so many levels. And at the end of the day women not drinking isn't going to solve anything, its just another shitty excuse for society to care less and for the police and district attorneys to phone their jobs in.

  • sjfromsj

    This comment should be be read nightly on every network by anchors and talking heads of every gender, color and creed.

  • Guest

    Thanks, Cindy. This needs to be said all the time.

    The fact that there are people reading this site who find issue at all with this is making me even sicker. Are they just stupid? Clearly it's a good idea to teach women how to try to be safe. No one is arguing with that. What we are arguing is that the people who rape need to be blamed. When a woman is drinking and is raped is no different than when a woman is not drinking and is raped. The rapist raped the woman. Period.

  • Kate at June

    You have more strength than I do most days to think about these issues I think, Cindy. I read her letter and cried. I've been avoiding all this since. I can't deal with any more discussions over what constitutes victim blaming and if its ever okay.

    What I hate most about these discussions is that they often become framed as men vs. women arguments and that is so inaccurate and ridiculous it makes me want to pull my hair out. Statistically, more women are victims of sexual assault. Statistically, more perpetrators are men.
    All right. Fine. That should have no bearing on how we conduct ourselves, treat the people around us, or what we teach our children.

    Everyone should be taught the value of a person.
    Everyone should be taught to look out for each other.
    Most importantly, everyone should be taught precautions on the understanding that there ARE evil people who don't play by the rules and it isn't your fault if they don't, not even a little bit.
    Still, its good to be aware of the fact that the world is a fucked up place and there are people that will treat other's bodies as property because they can.

    Teaching safety isn't victim blaming. Just please please lets teach our boys and girls the exact same thing. Teach all of them what is right and what is wrong. Teach all of them how to keep themselves safe from the people who ignore that.

  • I've read both of Yoffe's articles, and I've read responses to it.

    1.) You have inaccurately described Yoffe's article. At no point does she say alcohol causes rape. The greatest failing of her article (and it's sad that we must consider it a failing) is that she presumes it's a given that rapists are the ones responsible for rape and their actions are unforgivable. The fact that she should have to make this clarification is absurd, but then again, this is an absurd time we live in when rape is controversial rather than the unquestionable, undeniable evil it is.

    2.) Fox News is the highest rated news organization. It also trolls constantly, and it's designed to generate celebration from its supporters and outrage from it's detractors. Feed the Fox News website, and they'll keep doing it. Fox News is not representative of America, and we should stop treating it like it's a news organization worthy of serious consideration.

    3.) Moving on to later in your article, at no point does Yoffe say men shouldn't be educated about why it's wrong to rape. Again, I find it disgusting that society is so twisted that this needs to be taught.
    4.) I agree with Yoffe's point about the risks of drinking. Again, at no point does she say this excuses rapists or puts blame on the victim. But to come down on her point as controversial is unfair. The characterizations of her articles have been misleading. Furthermore, we advocate self-defense in other areas of our lives. We consciously change our behavior as a means of protection.

    I appreciate the author's outrage, and I understand where it comes from. I respect where it comes from. Having friends who have been raped, I feel where it comes from. It infuriates me. I watched The Invisible War and it made me sick and furious.

    We're walking in an awful neighborhood right now, and it needs to change, and we can work to make it change. But until it does, it's wrong to attack authors who advocate caution in order to prevent rapes rather than increase the risk and then have to suffer the horrific consequences.

  • Jifaner

    First line of the third paragraph in Yoffe's article does actually state that the only person to blame is the rapist. I think she said some problematic things regarding men and drinking, but I totally agreed with her advice on not drinking to the point of being falling down drunk.

  • Sadly

    This is the first time I've noticed a Pajiba writer use Fox-like tactics of distortion. I read both articles, any point I would have made is above, and I just wanted to put out there that it is disappointing to see a Pajiban "go there". I agree with you Cindy but stooping to their level is not the way to go.

  • Joseph Howe

    Ok, obviously the rapist is ultimately responsible for the attack, but really, this sanctimonious nonsense gets my goat. Would you leave the keys in the ignition parked overnight in the city? People shouldn't steal in the first place so there is no reason not to. Would any of you kind, considerate white people walk down the street at 3 A.M. in the neighborhood my mother grew up in? After all people shouldn't be robbed at gunpoint so it should be fine to do so. We live in a shitty world, there are such things as physical and moral hazards that increase the likelihood of theft, robbery, assault and yes rape. No, these young women should not have been raped, but why create a hazard which increases the likelihood?

  • Haystacks

    Have you ever been drunk? If you have, do you think if you were murdered, raped, or robbed, it would be your fault? Do you spend your entire life in your home, never having any friends or family over because they might attack you? Of course not, no one can live their life that way.

  • Wigamer

    It's been said before but bears repeating: A woman can be completely incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, naked, and lying spread-eagle in the middle of the street. She won't be raped unless a rapist is present. Fucking period.

  • Kanding

    I'm guessing that I'm a bit older than most of you posting here, and I'd like to say that the message has changed very little since I was a teenager in the 70s. Lip service is given to the fact that the rapist is responsible for rape, if at all. The rest of the discussion is about vigilance, prevention and safety. Personally, I'm sick of it. Don't people realize that women have the how-to-prevent-rape message on a nearly constant loop in their head whenever they're in a public space? We know what we're "supposed" to do. Maybe just a fraction of that attention to the issue could be focused on rapists. Because we can dress modestly, abstain from alcohol, and do everything on the damn list, and still get raped. The only 100% sure way to stop rape is if a rapist doesn't rape. That's it. The rapist is responsible and no one else.

    But could you imagine the uproar if Slate's Emily Yoffe had called for all men to stop drinking? Not women, just men? How the shit would have hit the fan. Because we are simply unused to thinking of men needing to curb their behaviour when going out at night even if it is a tiny minority of them that commit rape. Women are constantly told to limit their freedom. It's a given.

  • Maguita NYC

    So very well stated!

    Also, "Don't people realize that women have the how-to-prevent-rape message on a nearly constant loop in their head whenever they're in a public space?"

    You forgot that even in private, in our own homes, we are taught to take precautions when not living with a man: Lock your door quickly whenever you get home, and whenever you leave home. Leave a baseball bat at the door, or at the foot of your bed, illegal pepper spray, illegal Tasers, don't accept help from a stranger offering to carry your grocery bags up the stairs to your door, make sure you're not home alone when an electrician or any kind of repairman you don't know will be coming into your home, don't open the door to strange men, don't let the delivery pizza guy use your washroom... I'm probably forgetting a few.

    EDIT. I just remembered a very important one: Don't take the elevators late at night alone with strange men. Even if it's in your own building or work office.

  • calliope1975

    Neither I nor my rapist were drinking. I was 14. I said No repeatedly. I tried to push him off. It didn't help.

    The problem is I can't walk down ANY sidewalk in ANY neighborhood without getting leered at or having catcalls yelled at me. And I am no paragon of beauty or fitness. I'm tired of having to be on guard ALL THE TIME.

    And occasionally, I want to have a drink. Maybe, I even want to get drunk. It doesn't give anyone the right to put their hands on me. And if they do, it's all squarely on them.

  • rio

    ll make this point over and over again, if I dont want anybody to steal my fucking rolex or my car ill leave it at home or in my garage, I somehow can't leave my vagina at home. I really tried, but somehow is not detachable. You know who teaches me to dont take candies from strangers? my fucking parents, and if they dont common sense will, but when the only conversation we have when we talk about rape is how can the victim avoid it, we might have a fucking problem with rape culture.
    How is it fair that a woman has to be more aware of safety than a man? I can be raped at any time in any place, because this is the culture I live in so sorry if I dont care about discussing how I see feat to protect myself and I rather focus on changing the idea than woman are less than men, and that women are first and foremost sexual objects with no right of consent.

  • Maguita NYC

    "if I don't want anybody to steal my fucking rolex or my car i'll leave it at home or in my garage, I somehow can't leave my vagina at home. "

    So very well stated, with much needed comedic relief. Thank you!

  • Jezzer

    I'm not even going to bother debating someone who compares rape to car theft. You're a fucking idiot and you should feel bad.

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