Serena Williams blames Steubenville rape survivor for "putting herself in that position"

UPDATE: Williams issues an apology for remarks blaming a 16-year-old girl for getting raped

Published June 19, 2013 3:36PM (EDT)

Serena Williams
Serena Williams

UPDATED: June 18, 11:24 a.m.

Serena Williams has issued an apology for her "Rolling Stone" remark blaming the 16-year-old victim in the Steubenville rape case for getting sexually assaulted by Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond because of who she hung out with that night, what she had to drink and her alleged sexual history. In the statement, Williams distances herself from the remark ("what I supposedly said") and explains that she is "deeply sorry" for "what was written" in the article.

The statement in full:

What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.

I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields – anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.


Serena Williams has sparked considerable Internet outrage with a clueless remark in a "Rolling Stone" profile that blames the victim in the Steubenville rape case for the sexual assault Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond committed against her.

The tennis pro remarked that -- while what Mays and Richmond "did" (read: raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl) was "stupid" (read: a crime) -- the young victim "shouldn't have put herself in that position."

Williams also goes on to speculate about whether or not the girl was a virgin when the rape occurred, and calls the victim "lucky" because it "could have been much worse":

We watch the news for a while, and the infamous Steubenville rape case flashes on the TV – two high school football players raped a drunk 16-year-old, while other students watched and texted details of the crime. Serena just shakes her head. "Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don't take drinks from other people. She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously, I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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