TRIGGER WARNING: This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
Let’s say a person left his iPhone unattended in a public place and it was stolen. Can we say that he contributed to his fate by being negligent? Yes. Is this victim blaming? Yes. Can the same logic be applied to rape? No.
But some people would say, “Yes.” Some people think that women get raped because they wear “slutty” clothes. Some people think that women get raped because they drink alcohol. Some people think that women get raped because they stay out late at night. Some people think that women get raped because they don’t pray. Some people are ignorant, yes.
I feel extremely frustrated right now to have to explain the distinction between a man who leaves his phone unattended and a woman who was raped.
Here’s the deal. In the case of the iPhone, to prevent the same occurrence from happening again, all the man has to do is to put his iPhone in his pocket. Needless to say, putting his phone in his pocket, instead of leaving it in a public place, would reduce the risk of theft greatly.
The problem with victim blaming in rape is that the common precautionary measures advised – don’t get drunk, don’t wear slutty clothes, don’t talk to strangers – do not reduce the likelihood of rape. Sober girls are just as likely to be raped as drunk girls. Girls who don’t talk to strangers are just as likely to be raped as girls who talk only to acquaintances. Girls who wear completely normal clothing are just as likely to be raped as girls who wear what some people consider “slutty” clothing.
“Take the Necessary Precautions”
In a conversation, I was asked this question:
“Let’s say a woman spends an average of 8 hours a day at home. Are the chances of her being raped at least once in her lifetime the same as if she spends an average of 8 hours a day in that dangerous part of town known for its alarming number of sexual assaults?”
It’s easy to make the assumption that avoiding a dangerous area could reduce the odds that a person was sexually assaulted. But we have to recognize the implications of such a statement. To suggest that avoiding a dangerous area could prevent rape is to imply that if a woman chose to spend time in an area where she could be raped by a random stranger, she didn’t do a good enough job of avoiding rape and may have been partially responsible for what happened.
The problem with this assumption is that it’s wrong. It’s also offensive. For one, a woman is more likely to be raped in a familiar venue, by a familiar person, than she is to be raped by a stranger in an area with a “dangerous” reputation. In the case of rape, the places that she “could be” raped in are exactly the places that she “should be” safe in: her own home, the home of an acquaintance, or an indoor venue near her home.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics, “More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home.”
What advice should we give women then to “avoid rape” then? Avoid your home and areas within 1 mile of your home because majority of rapes happen in these places?
Furthermore, a “Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women” says:
“64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date.”
So, to “avoid rape,” should we advice women to avoid their husband, their live-in partner, their boyfriend, and their date?
To pursue the analogy further, rape survivors did not “leave their iPhones unattended.” They were keeping them in their pockets and they got mugged while sober, in normal clothes, by familiar people, in familiar places that may include their own home.
In other words, there is very little a victim could have done if someone has decided to rape them. The “preventive measures” people usually bring up (stay sober, don’t wear slutty clothes) aren’t really factors at all when we consider the evidence.
To simplify, leaving your iPhone lying around will increase the odds that it will be stolen. Putting your iPhone in your pocket, will reduce the odds that it will be stolen. So, if you choose to leave your phone out in the open, when you could have placed it in your pocket, means that it is your fault if it was stolen.
However, dressing slutty or talking to strangers will not increase the odds that you are raped. Dressing modestly and talking only to acquaintances will not reduce the odds that you are raped either. If a person is raped, it is not his or her fault.
It’s a completely different issue altogether.
“Don’t Get Drunk”
This statement is also commonly provided as a precautionary measure to “prevent rape.” It’s also wrong. If drunkenness was a direct contributor to the prevalence of rape, then a statistical increase in alcohol consumption should lead to a statistical increase in the prevalence of rape.
However, in the article “To Prevent Rape on College Campuses, Focus on the Rapists, Not the Victims,” Amanda Hess reveals that:
“According to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey—which surveys Americans ages 12 and older about crime they’ve experienced, whether or not they reported it to the authorities—rape has declined markedly in the United States since 1979, even as female binge drinking has risen.”
In the article, “Actually, The Link Between Sexual Assault And Alcohol Isn’t As Clear As You Think,” Tara Culp-Ressler explains that:
“Even though alcohol is associated with sexual assault, it’s not actually a direct association. Getting intoxicated only leads to rape when there’s someone present to commit that rape. When you remove rapists from the equation, the risks of getting drunk — which, of course, do involve serious public health consequences — don’t include getting raped.”
“Sexual Violence is Predatory”
According to the study “Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence” by David Lisak, perpetrators of sexual violence:
are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;
plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;
use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse control and use only as much violence as is needed
to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;
use psychological weapons — power, control, manipulation, and threats — backed up by physical force, and almost never
resort to weapons such as knives or guns;
use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.
In Culp-Ressler’s article, she admits that alcohol may be one of the tools a rapist uses. However, she says that it’s just one of many tools at a rapists disposal, and the unavailability of alcohol won’t necessarily prevent a rapist from raping if the rapist decides to rape.
In other words, alcohol is just one of the things a rapist may use AFTER they have selected a victim. It’s very likely that a rapist who has raped an intoxicated girl already decided to rape her, before she even took a sip of alcohol. If alcohol is not available at that moment, he would simply chosen another tactic to rape her.
The common myth surrounding rape is that a drunk woman, in a dark street, wearing “slutty clothing,” is more likely to be raped, than a sober woman, in her home, wearing normal clothing, having lunch with an acquaintance. This leads people to think that if the drunk woman was raped, she may have contributed to it by being “negligent.” That’s not true. The odds that either would be raped is zero, if there was no rapist nearby to rape them. These odds increase drastically if there was a nearby rapist who wanted to rape them. What a woman is wearing or what she was doing before she was attacked is irrelevant. She would have been attacked anyway if a sexual predator has decided to attack her.
Why Do We Blame the Victim?
Two years ago, there was a thread on Reddit asking sexual assault perpetrators what their motives were, “Reddit’s had a few threads about sexual assault victims, but are there any redditors from the other side of the story? What were your motivations? Do you regret it?” It has since been deleted, but not before parts of it were featured in several articles.
The article “If You’ve Ever Wondered What It’s Like To Be A Rapist, Have We Got A Reddit Thread For You!” features a very chilling, first-hand confession copied from Reddit’s rapist thread.
Here’s the entire confession:
I am a post-colleged age male who raped several girls through use of coercion, alcohol, and other tactics over a course of 3 years.
First off, I must say, I was at a dark and horrible place in my life, that I’ve since grown from. I’m ashamed of the person I was, if the people who I’m close to now knew who I was, I would be ruined. I’m known for being a great guy, friendly and easy to get along with, a community/political activist, a fervent volunteer in the community, and a person who rises through the ranks quickly due to successes at work. That was my mask, and I was good at it, so good that maybe I convinced myself along the line that was who I could really be, and that may of helped me change, and stop doing what I did.
I’m somewhat remorseful for what I did to those girls, but I don’t think I could ever face them to apologize. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I had this certain insatiable thirst that brought me to do what I did. I didn’t know how to stop, and just when I thought maybe I could, I’d find myself back in my pattern, back on the hunt.
I’m a good looking guy, and I can get girls pretty easily. I’m currently married to a beautiful woman that I met during this time of my life (not someone I raped, but someone who knew my mask during this time). So, anyways, after a while it became boring to go after the sluts and sorority girls that would easily throw their cunt after you. I wanted the thrill of the chase, and that’s what led me to forcing myself on girls. I would find attractive girls that were self-conscious about their looks. Girls who were pretty in their own unique way, but not the outgoing sort, mostly introverts, and girls that didn’t party or do wild things. Hopefully a girl who was a bit damaged, had a shitty ex-boyfriend, or family issues, came from a small shut in town, that sort of thing. So, when I showed interest in them they’d be completely enamored, they’d almost be shocked that a popular, good-looking, and well liked guy would be talking to them. I’d have that initial meeting at the library, a coffee shop, a work function, or a party where I had them convinced of what a great guy I was. I listened to them, and made them feel special, like they were a princess. Sometimes we might sort of hook-up that night (kissing, making-out, never anything more). The next day I’d call, and see when they wanted to get together again. I’d feign some excuse for not going out somewhere, but having them come over late in the night. It was college, and not a lot of people had transportation off campus, so it was typical for people to come over and watch a movie or something on a date.
They would come over, and I’d always make sure it was real cold in the room, cold enough so that when we started watching the movie I’d say something about being chilly, and grab a big fleece blanket for the both of us. We’d get kind of close, and then maybe ignore the movie for some kissing. After a while, we’d talk some more, and I’d start edging my hands around the under strap of the bra, or maybe a bit into her pants, just kind of playing on the edge to gauge her response. Some girls would stiffen up a little, and that’s when you knew they didn’t like what was going on. We were in my studio apartment, so the bed served as the couch, and it was easy to start sliding down throughout the movie so we’d be laying down. It was then that I could turn around and get on top of her. The girls usually didn’t know how to respond. Some of them were into it, and those nights were usually consensual and boring sex, sometimes followed up by a few more nightly visits before getting the boot. However, the great nights were the ones who squirmed, ones who didn’t want to give in. I’d have to shush them down, and try to work on them slowly enough so they didn’t know what was going on until it was pretty much already happening. I’m a muscular guy, over 6′ around 200 lbs. and most of these girls may have been 125-130, really tiny and easy to pin down. To be honest, even remembering it now, the squirming always made it better, they didn’t want it to happen, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Most girls don’t say no either. They think you’re a good guy, and should pick up on the hints, they don’t want to have to say “no” and admit to themselves what’s happening.
Alcohol helped. Having a few drinks during the movie, or doing a few jello shots that were “prepared for a party that weekend” would usually do the trick.
The aftermath was always different. Some girls left after about 15 minutes after. Some girls would stay until the morning and then leave. A few tried to call back, maybe blaming themselves for what happened or something. I never worried too much about being caught. Everyone knew me, and I worked with the police a lot, with administrators, and campus officials. I was on first name basis with the Chancellor and the President of Student Affairs, so if anything came down to a he/she-said I figured I’d be in the clear. Having her come over to my place also made it seem less predatory, as she came into my domain, and “could leave at any time”.
I guess that’s about it…seeing as just about everything has been said I’m gonna call it a day. I hope this view into a dark part of my history offers some insight into the mind of a serial rapist.
As the confession reveals, the rapist is not the stranger hiding in a bush, ready to attack you as you walk by at night, in a “dangerous area.” He could be popular. He could seem friendly. He could be attractive. He could be a date, an acquaintance, or even a close friend. This fact shatters our sense of security. We don’t want to believe that any one of us could be a victim of rape. That is why we victim blame.
In the article, “Why Do We Blame Victims?” Juliana Breines explains that:
“Victim blaming is not just about avoiding culpability—it’s also about avoiding vulnerability. The more innocent a victim, the more threatening they are. Victims threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When bad things happen to good people, it implies that no one is safe, that no matter how good we are, we too could be vulnerable. The idea that misfortune can be random, striking anyone at any time, is a terrifying thought, and yet we are faced every day with evidence that it may be true.”
The very idea that sexual assault can happen anytime, to anyone, violates our personal sense of control, so we refuse to accept that reality. We want to tell ourselves that, “I will not be raped, as long as I don’t get drunk.” We want to tell ourselves that, “My daughter will not be raped, as long as I make sure she doesn’t wear tube tops.”
When an anonymous girl gets raped, we tell ourselves, “Surely, she must have done something my mother, my sister, and my daughter is not doing.” We tell ourselves these things because it’s too disturbing for us to accept the reality that our sisters, daughters, and mothers can be raped anytime, anywhere, by people that they know, and in places that we thought they were safe in.
We blame the victim because we are afraid; for ourselves and for our loved ones. But instead of victim blaming, we should look for more productive ways to respond to this threat. We should be disturbed enough to do something about rape. We should be afraid enough to educate ourselves and our loved ones. At the very least, we should be human enough to empathize with the rape survivor; a person unfortunate enough to have had to endure the assault of a skilled criminal.
Survivors deserve our support, not our scrutiny.
Breines, J. “Why Do We Blame Victims?” Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201311/why-do-we-blame-victims
Culp-Ressler, T. (2013, October). “Actually, The Link Between Sexual Assault And Alcohol Isn’t As Clear As You Think.” Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/10/29/2844951/link-alcohol-sexual-assault/
Hess, A. (2013, October). “To Prevent Rape on College Campuses, Focus on the Rapists, Not the Victims.” Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/10/16/it_s_the_rapists_not_the_drinking_to_prevent_sexual_assault_on_college_campuses.html
Lisak, D. “Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence.” Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: http://www.middlebury.edu/media/view/240951/original/
National Violence Against Women Survey. “Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women.” Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-offenders
The Cajun Boy. “If You’ve Ever Wondered What It’s Like To Be A Rapist, Have We Got A Reddit Thread For You!” Retrieved on September 26, 2014. From: http://uproxx.com/webculture/2012/07/rapists-explain-why-they-rape-on-reddit/