Victim Blaming

Unfortunately, this is something you see happening quite often – where the person who is the victim of a crime is blamed for causing it.

An all-too-common case is where a woman is raped or sexually assaulted.

If she happened to be wearing revealing clothing, such as a short skirt, you may well hear people saying things like she was “asking for trouble”.  Or officials investigating the crime may ask her what she was wearing, rather than for details on her assailant.

We won’t mince words here: this is absolute bullshit.

It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, or if she flirted, or if she had a few drinks.  It doesn’t matter if she was walking down the street stark naked with a tattoo across her forehead saying “I LOVE SEX”.

If she did not consent to what happened, a crime was committed against her. No ifs. No buts.

She shouldn’t have to cover up or modify her behaviour to avoid being a victim of crime.  The person who assaulted her should simply not commit the crime. The blame is 100% with the person who carried out the assault.

This is one area where the patriarchal nature of society often rears its head.  The idea that if a man becomes aroused he is unable to control himself is something that people seem to accept. Allowing that to be a defence is victim blaming, pure and simple, and sadly that way of thinking is ingrained in many parts of our society.

The following dialog is a hypothetical conversation designed to illustrate this point.  It was published over 40 years ago (The Legal Bias Against Rape Victims – The Rape of Mr. Smith, Connie K. Borkenhagen, The American Bar Association Journal, April 1975), but sadly is still relevant today.

By making the victim a man, and the crime non-sexual it illustrates how unreasonable the position taken is:

Laywer: “Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of First and Main?”

Mr. Smith: “Yes”

Laywer: “Did you struggle with the robber?”

Mr. Smith: “No.”

Laywer: “Why not?”

Mr. Smith: “He was armed.”

Laywer: “Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than resist?”

Mr. Smith: “Yes.”

Laywer: “Did you scream? Cry out?”

Mr. Smith: “No, I was afraid.”

Laywer: “I see. Have you ever been held up before?”

Mr. Smith: “No.”

Laywer: “Have you ever GIVEN money away?”

Mr. Smith: “Yes, of course.”

Laywer: “And you did so willingly?”

Mr. Smith: “What are you getting at?”

Laywer: “Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given money away in the past. In fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t CONTRIVING to have your money taken from you by force?”

Mr. Smith: “Listen, if I wanted –“

Laywer: “Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?”

Mr. Smith: “About 11:00 P.M..”

Laywer: “You were out on the street at 11:00 P.M.? Doing what?”

Mr. Smith: “Just walking.”

Laywer: “Just walking? You know that it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?”

Mr. Smith: “I hadn’t thought about it.”

Laywer: “What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?”

Mr. Smith: “Let’s see … a suit. Yes, a suit.”

Laywer: “An EXPENSIVE suit?”

Mr. Smith: “Well – yes. I’m a successful lawyer, you know.”

Laywer: “In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think that you were ASKING for this to happen, mightn’t we?”



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