Blaming the gang rape victim

The 15-year-old girl violently attacked after Richmond High's homecoming dance is scolded for drinking

Topics: Broadsheet,

It was only a matter of time before the victim-blaming began in the Richmond High School gang rape case. You might think the brutality of the assault would pacify rape apologists — after all, a 15-year-old was attacked after the homecoming dance at her high school in Richmond, Calif., for more than two hours by several males while two-dozen bystanders looked on, some laughing and taking pictures; she was so severely beaten she had to be airlifted to the hospital in critical condition. But people always find ways to scold sexual assault victims — perhaps especially when the details of the case are so grisly and difficult to comprehend.

The blog Helpful Comments (via the Sexist) compiles a list of nauseating examples of comments posted in response to an AOL article about the attack. The are several despicable racist comments directed toward the alleged attackers and that blame the victim for hanging out with a non-white crowd. One commenter wants to know whether the victim is “hot” — as though that would rationalize the rape. And, finally, there is the “blame it on the alcohol” school of thought. Tbigpimpins writes:

wait wait wait…..she was drinking prior to this? hmmm. im not sayin its her fault or she deserved this or anything but shes 15 and drinking outside on a bench by herself in a dress….as much as people want this to be a perfect world, its not. what she was doin in the first place was asking for trouble. if your not gunna be smart about the choices you make, im not gunna feel bad for what happens

ASARGUNJ chimes in:

I’m sorry, but she shouldn’t have drunk alcohal to begin with. I’m not saying she deserved it, but she should’ve been much, much wiser. Getting a ride from dad was intelligent, but she should’ve kept to herself and concentrated on meeting her destination instead of hitting the beer at such a late hour, away from the gym.

And then there’s this genius, Simzillyjp:

Group drinking. That says it all. Booze will bring out the best in people. (yea go have another one) Perhaps the boys are not all to blame. The young lady had one too many.



In summary: She asked for it, because girls and women aren’t supposed to wear dresses (apparently not even to their high school homecoming dance); they aren’t supposed to hang out in all-male groups; they aren’t supposed to go outside at night; and they aren’t supposed to get drunk. Some see a violation of any one of these rules — or the many others imposed on women — as bestowing some responsibility on the part of the victim; she’s guilty by virtue of being incautious. Most folks, however, will take the same approach but insist on a semantic difference: They aren’t blaming the victim, they’re blaming the violence on her violations. In other words: She didn’t deserve  to be raped, but she was raped because she made some stupid mistakes. 

It’s such a convenient response, because every single day women do all sorts of things that seem reckless, especially after the fact of a crime against them. We leave our houses alone. We use underground parking garages and ride in elevators. We answer the door while we’re home alone. We wear makeup. We wear clothing that doesn’t hide our breasts and hips. We allow men in our lives, as family, lovers, friends and casual acquaintances. The list goes on and on. For women, it can provide reassurance that we won’t be so viciously attacked so long as we follow the rules; for men, it can offer the comfort that their female loved ones are safe from such an assault. It’s how so many try to make sense of senseless violence, and try to regain some feeling of power in the face of such brutality.

How about empowering yourself without lying to yourself? Make a donation to the victim of the crime (or organizations that support rape victims), take a self-defense class or offer to pay for one for a lady in your life, speak out against sexual violence of all stripes, talk to kids about how to respond as a witness to a crime and hammer home to teens the concept of enthusiastic consent. You know, this list goes on and on, too.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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