Middle East reporter Sophia Jones’ had a strong response to her alma mater’s president for his assertion that college women’s excessive drinking feeds the culture of rape. She’s right in that the blame for rape needs to be focused on the perpetrator. For too many decades, victims of sexual assault have been questioned, challenged and judged for what they wore, where the were or how they acted, as these actions may have cast a siren song whereby the male’s only recourse was forcing himself on her. While that defense has unquestionably kept many from life behind bars (and has kept far more women from reporting) it’s a pathetic representation of male character.
I cringe when after Jones’ college roommate was the target of a sexual assault in her own bed in her dorm, she later said, “I didn’t ask for this.” But she wasn’t referring to the attempted rape, she was referring to the way she was treated by the justice system after she reported the assault (makes me seriously question the term ‘justice”).
Dr. Trachtenberg’s response to Jones’ letter was equally thoughtful, explaining that his words are meant to prevent rape. Women who are highly intoxicated are vulnerable to predators. This is accurate, there’s a high correlation between intoxication and sexual assault….but we need to draw clearer lines:
- Judging when an assailant chooses to rape means determining if (s)he does not or cannot give consent. This is a choice. Whether the victim is intoxicated, was flirting earlier or is wearing revealing clothes in no way is responsible for the choice to commit rape.
- Yes, it’s important to teach our daughters that intoxication can make them vulnerable… so they can be safe. Just as we teach them to drive defensively so that when someone runs a red light they can avoid being hit. But not heeding that warning shouldn’t be a reason to blame her for the assault or excuse the assailant.When someone runs a red light and smashes into my car, I’m not asked , “Why weren’t you prepared that he might run into your car. What did yo do to deter him from hitting you? Did you want to be hit?” My lack of a defensive strategy, doesn’t keep the driver from being ticketed for running the light, nor does it exonerate blame make the accident ‘no fault’. We should all do everything we can to be safe this world, but lack of prevention isn’t an invitation to be assaulted.
- Let’s refocus our prevention strategies which have traditionally been directed at the potential victims. So when Sophia Jones quoted ‘helpful’ Egyptian police officer whose suggestion for preventing rape is, “If a woman is wearing provocative clothing, the change has to come from her”, I say let’s rethink our strategy to let’s focus on preventing rapes… by preventing people from choosing to rape.