Victim blaming must end

Lena Rawley

Last week, the Washington Post ran a story about Danielle Hicks-Best — a woman who, when she was 11 years old, was gang raped a by a group of two or three men. When Hicks-Best went to the police for help, she was charged with filing a false police report. During the investigation and trial, 11-year-old Hicks-Best was called “promiscuous,” and the sex that allegedly occurred was deemed “consensual” by members of the police force. Hicks-Best was convicted of the charges and made a ward of the court — forced to spend years in and out detention and treatment centers.

While Hicks-Best’s scenario is extreme, it draws attention to the very real and very problematic issue of victim blaming — a huge part of rape culture. Saying that a woman has asked for her rape because of the way she was dressed or the amount of alcohol she consumed is a direct insinuation that a woman welcomed, and even encouraged, her own sexual assault. This is never the case; only 4.4 percent of rapes actually involve apparent, legitimate provocative behavior by the victim. No woman ever asks for a sexual assault to happen to her. A tight red dress doesn’t mean any woman wants to be forced into sex. And two or three more drinks than usual isn’t an invitation to do so either.

It is even more ignorant to assume to claim that a woman is lying about a rape. In 2014, when the rape accusations against Bill Cosby began rolling in, Cosby and his supporters argued that these women were reporting the comedian’s sexual assaults for fame and financial gain. They insinuated that these women were using these accusations as a platform for media attention. This claim is ridiculous — no woman stands to gain anything from a sexaul assault except extreme trauma. Hicks-Best’s mother said, “After 11 she lost the rest of her childhood.” There is no way Hicks-Best, or any other woman, would ever ask for that.

Saying she was asking for it is not a legitimate cause of rape. It is important to note that rape itself is most usually not about sexual desire. Rather, the reasons for rape rest in violence and anger. What the victim was wearing or doing is never a factor considering most rapists never actually remember their victim’s attire and studies have proven that what a victim wears does not typically contribute to their sexual assault.

Victim blaming creates and perpetuates the excuse that a woman is “asking for it,” furthering the continuation of rape culture. It has additionally created an environment in which women are terrified to speak out about their own rapes — in the last five years, 68 percent of sexual assaults went unreported — and allows for many rapists to go unconvicted for their crimes.

If we want to put an end to rape and the culture that allows for its continuation, we have to stop treating our victims like culprits. No one asks for rape, so let’s stop saying they do.

Email Lena Rawley at [email protected]

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2 COMMENTS

  1. In fact, almost nothing this writer claims is consistent with the data and research findings, and is the parroting of “rape culture” propaganda.

    In 1994, Richard Felson, professor of Criminology and Sociology at Penn State, coauthored the book Aggression and Coercive Actions: A Social-Interactionist Perspective with James Tedeschi, professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, which argues that sexual fulfillment is the motive of rapists, rather than the aggressive desire to dominate the victim. Felson argues that rape is an aggressive form of sexual coercion and the goal of rape is sexual satisfaction rather than power. Most rapists do not have a preference for rape over consensual sex.

    FBI reports from 1966 through 1994 put the number of “unfounded” rape accusations at 8%-20%, which is four times the average rate (2%–4%) of unfounded reports for all FBI Index crimes such as murder or robbery. Generally, an “unfounded” complaint is one in which the accuser recants or her story is contradicted by available evidence, not simply those which are doubted or inadequately investigated.

    Objective and conservative studies have shown a far higher proportion of documented false rape allegations: McDowell (Air Force, 1985) 27%, Buckley (DC, 1992) 24%, Kanin (small Midwestern town in which polygraphs were used, 1994) 41%, Kanin (two large Midwestern state universities) 50%. The allegations were determined to be false only upon credible recantation by the complainant, often just before being offered a polygraph test or after failing a polygraph test. (Kanin was a sociologist at Purdue University, and an early feminist who pioneered awareness and study of the concept of date rape.)

    In the McDowell Study, a follow-up evaluation was performed on the “inconclusive” cases by three independent reviewers, based on a list of 25 criteria that were common among the women who had acknowledged they lied. In order for any of the inconclusive cases to be recategorized as false, all three independent reviewers had to agree that it was false. This increased the percentage of false allegations to 60%.

    In the study of false rape allegations in the Midwestern town and state universities, more than half of the accusers fabricated the rape to serve as a “cover story” or alibi, following consensual sex with an acquaintance that led to some sort of problem for the accuser, such as contracting a sexually transmitted disease or becoming pregnant. The next most common reason was revenge, rage, or retribution (27% of the non-student and 44% of the student accusers). The Air Force study also found that spite or revenge and the need to compensate for a sense of personal failure were the primary motives for false rape reports.

    • Says the guy who looks like a child predator….

      Y’know, when it comes to an 11 year old girl, a thing that won;t care or know about sex for another 3 years, you need to get your fucking priorities straight, pick your battles better.

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