Victim Blaming 101
i dont care about Rush Limbaugh. When his agent was asked if it was problematic that Rush had completely lost his hearing he replied “Rush does not listen to anyone else anyway.” And while his incendiary comments about the Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke finally woke up scores of advertisers and caused them to dump him, Rush will continue to blame survivors of sexual violence and advance his racist, misogynist agenda. He does not need to listen to do what he does.
But its not Rush, it is the “well intentioned” men who really get me. Recently, one wrote an article for the Daily Emerald, the University of Oregon paper in Eugene, because April is sexual assault awareness month. The author clearly thinks sexual assault is the biggest problem on campus and then in his well intentioned way goes on to blame the women who are targeted by this crime for the problem.
By focusing on the perceived problem of women joking about being raped, and suggesting that women stay out of high risk areas, the author is giving a pass to the structural institutional problems around rape and ignoring well known best practices. What we know is that first off rape survivors need to be believed. What we know is that the legal institutions mandated to deal with sexual assault (especially the police) often discourage, down play and outright deny rape accusations. What we know is that very few rape allegations turn out to be false (between 3% and 8% the same or less than most crimes) and that the vast majority of rapes, 76% according to DoJ, don’t get reported at all. And what we know is that rape happens everywhere. The problem is not women going to “high risk” locations, the problem is a culture that teaches and condones sexist violence and fails to hold perpetrators accountable. And, the problem is men (even well intentioned men who claim they are allies) who don’t challenge and recognize their own privilege, who don’t realize they are perpetuating sexist beliefs even when they are directly asked not to spew sexist crap to an entire student body (as was this author who asked for an expert opinion prior to writing the article and then chose to ignore it).
And until those of us that are well intentioned “male allies” are willing to really listen to those we hope to support, none of us have a chance at beating the complex social and cultural structures which make sexual assault pervasive in this country.
[Disclaimer – Sara and Abigail helped me in being a good ally for this post. Thx.]