Rape: Why are women still blamed?

Mary Ann Henderson
Does she look like she deserved what happened to her?

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You would think that a murder that happened nearly 40 years ago wouldn’t be topical. Unfortunately, it is. I say “unfortunately” even though writers might like having a subject in their book be front and center in the news. For me, it’s an issue that makes me worried for the women I know, and it makes me angry that these horrible attitudes still exist after all this time.

Why are women still being blamed when they are raped?

A few cases in point:

In Montana, State District Judge G. Todd Baugh gave a light sentence to a teacher who raped a 14-year-old girl. The judge implied that the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. She killed herself before the case went to trial.

George Will criticized university policies to protect victims of sexual assault. He wrote that “they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges” and “[i]t vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture.”

In his new book, Todd Akin continues to defend his view that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate” rape.

It’s not just stupid people in politics. You have musicians who glorify “rape culture.” CEOs and celebrities who trivialize the word by applying it to things that aren’t remotely close to actual rape.

I’ve seen the devastation that rape causes. It’s the loss of peace of mind, the feeling that you will never feel safe, the sense that you are less than a human being. It’s a feeling that never goes away. Every rape is a form of murder because the person a woman was before the attack may be lost forever. This is why rape affects more than just the victim. It affects her family, friends, and everyone else around her. It causes fissures in relationships, adds stress on the victim’s family, and increases the sense of insecurity. Rape is a horrible and destructive act for the victim, her loved ones, and the community as a whole.

But when people add shame to it — when they blame the victim or even accuse that person of liking it — it makes it harder for the victim to get the help she needs. She may even avoid reporting the crime because she wants to avoid the humiliation of it. This emboldens the rapist and enables him to commit even more heinous crimes until someone winds up dead. That’s why “slut shaming” isn’t just morally wrong. It endangers our communities and puts all women in danger.

There is nothing trivial, funny, titillating, or partisan about rape. It is not just another type of sex act. It needs to be treated as it really is — a crime. Just as no one deserves to be robbed or assaulted, no one deserves to be raped.