Thursday, March 10, 2011

It was HER fault...blaming the victim

Is there any situation where a rape victim is not held in some way responsible for being attacked? If she was behaving flirtatiously, wearing revealing clothes or had some previous sexual experience, then the assumption is made over and over again that she was somehow "asking for it". If she was walking at night in a secluded spot, she was being irresponsible about her personal safety. If her rapist was her husband or boyfriend, the fact that she had had sexual relations with them in the past is taken as a blanket consent for sex in the future.

All this type of thinking does is neatly shift responsibility for the crime from the perpetrator to the victim. And this attitude seems to pervade even in situations where the victim is still a very young girl.

A particularly shocking example of this mindset is outlined by the website The F Word. The case is that of an 11 year-old girl who was allegedly raped by up to 20 young men and boys and a video of the attack then passed around the local school.

If that wasn't upsetting enough, the F Word describes how numerous press reports of the case focus on people from the girl's local community lining up to blame her (and indeed, her mother) for the attack and exonerate the men accused of carrying it out. Many of those quoted are women.

Not one of the reports, including one by that august publication, The New York Times, chose to examine how the victim might be feeling. I hope to goodness she is getting the support she will surely need to try and recover from her ordeal, although these reports cause me to seriously doubt she is.

The case, which has yet to go to trial, took place in the United States. But similar cases have happened in the UK and once again, women are just as likely as men to point the finger at the victim. In fact, according to a recent BBC report, women are, unhappily, even more likely to blame the victim than men are.

Imagine another scenario: your daughter/sister/niece is the 11 year-old girl allegedly raped by up to 20 men and boys.

Do you still believe it was somehow her fault?

A Post Script:

If you wish to sign a petition protesting about the New York Times' reporting of this case, please click here.

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