Rape and Responsibility

Let’s say that one evening I go out, and I wear some tight jeans. I wear a shirt that shows off my bicep muscles. I gel my hair so it looks cool, and I don’t shave so I have designer stubble. It is, of course, my fault if another guy rapes me. What do I expect if I look so damn good?

Does this argument strike you as reasonable? Because, according to an Amnesty Internetional survey, 1 in 3 people

believe a woman is partially or completely responsible for being raped if she has behaved flirtatiously

as well as:

over 25% believe she is at least partly to blame if she has worn revealing clothing or been drunk.

The report itself says that 8% of people think that wearing provactive clothing makes a woman totally responsible for being raped. A disturbing number of women actually believe this.

I really don’t know what to say, other than what the hell is wrong with these people?

Here’s what I hope is a fitting analogy: wearing revealing clothing is to rape as leaving the house is to being burgled. Sure, it might increase the chances, but it’s an entirely reasonable thing to do!

Would these same people say that the house-owner is to blame for going out? That he has to accept some of the blame for the burglary, because clearly he was tempting burglars far too much? We understand why the burglar robbed the house – he wanted the contents and had the opportunity. But whatever reasons the burglar had for choosing that particular house, it doesn’t excuse the actions or shift any blame onto the owner of the house! Some would say that flirting or dressing provocatively is the equivalent of leaving the doors open, but that’s bullshit. If there is an equivalent, it’s probably finding the most reputedly violent brute in the area and promising him sex, and even then the crime is still entirely down to the perpetrator.

Why do people think this? The best I can come up with is:

Men, when flirted with or when they see a woman dressed provocatively, will think about sex. That’s the way it is. They can’t help it, so some men figure that as the woman is the cause, she’s the whole reason for their thinking about sex. They assume that rapists have exactly the same feelings but just far stronger1 so therefore it’s up to women not to attract the attention of people who can’t control themselves.

Or that could be crap. I’m not a psychologist.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, the women-are-to-blame argument forgets that we all know what is right and what is wrong. If we don’t know, the law is there to tell us. There is nothing that anybody could do that would justify their being raped – surely that’s bloody obvious? It is wrong, and the person committing the crime is entirely at fault.

I feel like I’m not saying this as clearly as it can be said. I wish I could come up with a snappy sentence to elucidate this concept for the 1 in 3 people who don’t seem to understand it.

Finally, I echo Jo‘s final sentiment: is it any bloody wonder that only 15% of rapes are reported?

  1. which I think is probably untrue []