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]