There has been a lot in the media lately about victim responsibility and the culture of violence in our community. I, like many others, was horrified by the images seen on TV of a young woman unconscious and being dragged around by classmates who were laughing and enjoying themselves at her expense. What was even more horrifying to me was that that image was only the tip of the iceberg as to what happened to that young woman that evening. Two high school boys, both football stars in their town, were convicted of raping her that evening.
What is sickening to me is that those boys didn’t think they did anything wrong; they certainly didn’t believe they were guilty of rape. What is sad to me is that the tears seen at the trial were not because they were devastated that they had done wrong and harmed this young woman and changed her life forever, but because they were found guilty and were going to go to juvenile detention for one year. Where was their recognition of the crime they had committed and their ownership of responsibility? Where was the understanding from the other young people at the party who were taking pictures, tweeting them and taking videos with their phones, that what was happening was a crime and this young woman was the victim? It doesn’t appear from the news report that there was any understanding by anyone. They thought it was funny, a joke. And it certainly doesn’t appear that anyone thought to try to stop them. One article talked about how a young man had, just moments earlier, stopped his friend from driving because he was drunk and shouldn’t be behind the wheel. He took responsibility to stop his friend from making this grave mistake, but moments later didn’t think to take that same responsibility and stop his other friends from raping an unconscious young woman. I have to ask why? Why didn’t anyone think this was wrong?
I am also very troubled by the media coverage of this event. Why are we focusing on the victim and her responsibility in this? Yes, it appears she drank too much as it appears everyone at the party did. Also noting that everyone was underage, but that is a whole different blog topic. Because a young woman drinks too much doesn’t mean she wants to be raped. It doesn’t mean that other party goers can do whatever they want with her. It means she drank too much. Once again our society is trained to blame the victim and leave the responsibility to her, not to the perpetrators.
What is the answer? For starters we all must stop blaming the victim. Battered women don’t ask to be abused and rape victims don’t “have it coming” because of their attire, their state of consciousness, etc. As a society we need to change our focus. What do we do to prevent rape? It isn’t about telling a woman what to wear, how to wear her hair, how to fight back or whatever other strategies we all say to our daughters and sisters and women in our lives. We stop rape by not having people rape other people. Put the responsibility where it belongs, on the perpetrator. Let’s have lists of things people can do to prevent themselves from raping others such as, if you feel like raping someone today, don’t.
There is hope, I saw a video that showed a young woman unconscious on a couch and a young man saying, “Look at her. Let me show you what I am going to do to her.” He then proceeded to get her a pillow and a blanket to cover her up. He then said real men respect women. I am ever hopeful that message will be heard and that becomes the culture in our society.